Lawyers in love—with the law

The unauthorized practice of law, diversity and bias in the profession—and Cobb salad—were on the table April 19, as the Butte County Bar Association listened to a talk by the State Bar’s president.

Karen Nobumoto, the second woman and first minority woman (she’s black) to lead the State Bar of California, told the approximately 40 attorneys assembled at the Butte Creek Country Club that it’s up to the membership to make sure change occurs.

Nobumoto is a prosecutor in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and has seen several cases in which an unscrupulous person posed as someone authorized to give legal advice—most often to people in poor, immigrant communities. She got a 13-year prison sentence for one offender.

Weirdly, while it’s a felony to continue to practice law after your license has been revoked, it’s only a misdemeanor to practice without ever having secured a license. (Did you know you’re not supposed to use “esquire” after your name if you’re not an attorney? I’m in big trouble.)

As for the diversity issue, Nobumoto said that, while women form 32 percent of the association’s statewide membership (up from 26 percent in 1991) and make up half of law students, less than 15 percent of judges and law firm partners are women. Plus, female lawyers make $20,000 a year less than their comparable male counterparts.

The association has a program in inner-city schools—Nobumoto showed an inspiring video about it—that encourages young people to develop an interest in the law. Working lawyers act as mentors.

Oops, we spent it already

Add another mark to the list of our government’s broken promises. During World War II, when able-bodied men were off fighting the good fight, the United States sought out Mexicans to do their work in the fields or on the railroads. Some 300,000 braceros were paid to harvest crops, but 10 percent of their pay was deducted as a kind of forced savings program.

The government promised the braceros would get the money back once they returned to Mexico, but most of them are still waiting, said Deborah Pacyna, who works for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who is supporting the return of the money. Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Cudahy, is sponsoring AB 2913, which would amend the state statute of limitations so a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in reimbursements can continue. The suit charges that the U.S. and Mexican governments, along with Wells Fargo Bank and Mexican banks, are liable for the lost wages.

Pacyna said there was a large turnout for an April 22 rally at the state Capitol, which included several of the braceros themselves. “These gentlemen are in their 70s and 80s,” she said. “This bill gets them the money back that was taken out of their paycheck.”

That is, if it passes.

Let it roll

I passed up a cool piece of Chico history on eBay the other day: a luggage tag said to be from the 1940s depicting the Spinning Wheels Roller Skating Rink on East Seventh Avenue, near The Esplanade. How many of you remember that puppy? I asked around and found a couple of people who remembered the days pre-Cal Skate. Apparently, the old rink was a lot of fun and had hardwood floors for the kids to go ’round and ’round on. I think this tag looks more ‘70s than ‘40s, though.