Westwood Rotary on April 17th, 2003 -

Yes, RAY ZICKFELD started us off with the Pledge, first getting our attention - a good move, RAY, since the table talk doesn't always stop as soon as it should. Having recovered from the 15th of this month, PP STEVE DAY was with us, and led us in It's a Grand Old Flag, with PP JIM DOWNIE on the keyboard.  Also apparently recovered from the 15th, CHRIS GAYNOR was also on hand, and this quick recovery led to a dual fine for the two of them, a hundred bucks apiece!  Ah, accounting must be a profitable business…FLOYD DEWHIRST was next summoned forward to provide the Invocation, and while he was coming up, Prexy TED told us that FLOYD was President Nixon's dentist.  Since he had some molds of the President's teeth, TED suggested Floyd should donate them to Rotary - but alas, they have already gone to the Nixon Library. FLOYD introduced his remarks by reminding us of the need for wisdom and courage for our leaders, especially the President, and then gave a prayer taken from the Book of Common Prayer.

DON PARK introduced two visiting Rotarians.  John Colville belongs to the Paramount Club, and he is the District Governor Elect, whose term will begin this July.  He was accompanied by his Executive Aide-to-be, Carmela Raack, who belongs to Westchester.
John spoke briefly, boosting PETER MORE as our President Elect, and then Carmela gave a pitch for the Interact and Rotaract Clubs in the District. She offered us Raffle Books for $10, half of the income going to Polio Eradication, and the rest toward their attending the International Convention in Brisbane.  Several members came forward to support this most worthwhile cause.   In that regard, we had a guest, Coleen Yorke, who has been active in restarting the UCLA Rotaract Club - she spoke briefly, noting that officers have been elected, and they are once again underway.

We had expected to present the Firefighter of the Year award today, but designate Larry Fuller was called away - and as Prexy TED pointed out, it was probably better for him to be taking care of business than being with us, anyway.  We are rescheduling for May 1st, and hope that will work.  PDG ANDY ANDERSON came forward to announce that SALLY PHILLIPS had once again made a major donation to WVRC.  The check was for TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS, with eight for Polio Eradication, seven for Parkinson's, and the balance of five for WVRC itself.  SALLY, each one of us thanks you for your continuing generosity and support for Westwood Rotary.

LENORE MULRYAN, who is technically on Leave to complete her latest exhibit at the UCLA Fowler Museum, was present, and Prexy TED wanted us all to recognize the hard work she and her Ambassadorial Scholarship Selection Committee have just completed.
The members include RUDY ALVAREZ, JAYNE SPENCER, SUSAN ALLEN, KEVIN KOMATSU and KEN LEVER, and they selected three candidates out of the five who applied.  The District will select one of the three, and any one of them would be an outstanding choice.  Stay tuned.  RUDY ALVAREZ asked for help in designing our Club Display for the District Conference at the Pechanga Resort.  Please give him a ring - or you can even volunteer your spouse, of course.  LEE DUNAYER was recognized (sans - that means without - fine) for celebrating his Tenth Wedding Anniversary on a Hawaiian Cruise - and just yesterday, LEE, PETER MORE, JIM DOWNIE and BILL EDWARDS flew several planes down to Corona for lunch - PETER described this the hundred dollar burger.

SALLY BRANT introduced another excellent speaker, Robert C. Baker, whose subject was our jury system.  Bob graduated from USC, entered the Navy, and served in Vietnam.  He then completed the night program in 3 ½ years at Loyola Law, and has been in private practice since 1971.  He is usually defending, and as a statistic, won his first twenty two cases in a row!  In his career, he has handled over 130 cases, winning about 90% of the time - this record would scare you if you were opposing him, YOE suspects.  He has lectured widely, and among his awards he was chosen as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1993 by the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has been married for 36 years to his wife, Cheryl, and they have three sons.  His hobbies are golf, and "messing around with his cars".

Our jury system provides more power to citizens than anywhere else in the world.  In writing the Constitution, the only thing everyone agreed upon was the absolute need for juries, plus a guarantee of the right to trial by and before your peers.  The jury is the great leveler.  The jury looks at the evidence, decides on facts, and applies these facts according to the instructions given them by the judge. 

All you hear about are the verdicts that are later overturned - as an example, the jury awarded the plaintiff 4.3 million, and the judge reduced it to 430K - but what everyone remembers is the huge original award, not the final outcome.  He opines that politicians do what is popular, but juries do what is right.  He defended OJ in his civil case - two years of preparation, five and a half months of trial - and it almost made him bankrupt.
He deplores the effect of the media in big cases - they decide for themselves what the result should be, and hammer away at that conclusion.  A juror in such a case often finds himself believing that he cannot return to his neighborhood after the trail unless he votes with the media.

As an example of the power of the media, Katie Couric (sp?) 'revealed' that OJ's kids had left him - thus proving that they felt he was guilty!  Don Ohlmeyer, head of the CBS network for the Western U.S., heard this charge, and immediately called Katie to correct her.  He knew - the kids had been moved to HIS HOME for their own safety - but she refused to retract her 'scoop'.

Supreme Court Justice Leaned Hand stated in the 30's, "The way to bring down our system is to ration justice" and juries are the keystone to our entire justice system.
Bob reminded us that 70% of all civil cases are between corporations, but these are not what you hear about in the media.  The little guy needs protection, and we are the only country that maintains a civil jury system.  He does not favor arbitration, where one person decides everything, with no appeal - he feels it is not less expensive, as claimed.

Q&A.  RAY ZICKFELD, Where did the number twelve come from, as far as jurors are concerned?  It isn't really known - but some states use only six, others eight, so it varies.
BOB THOM - Are southern trial lawyers as bad as they appear to be?  Mississippi is the worst case, since their judges run for election, and the trial lawyers essentially elect them.
The difference in California is that we vote for Retention, not Election.  YOE - Does the jury decide penalties in all cases?  No, only in criminal cases.  You may remember that Chief Justice Rose Bird commuted the death penalty for 63 of the 65 cases she reviewed - and this caused her to lose her bid for retention. PP STEVE SCHERER, what is your opinion of contingency fees?   They protect those who cannot afford lawyers, usually in personal injury cases, and thus are worthwhile.  However, the problem is that the plaintiff or defendant who wins is usually unable to pay the lawyers share, so the state steps up, after all.  JACK HARRIS, Can a judge change the penalty without recourse? No, if the jury does not accept his remitted figure, he can grant a new trial.  Question from someone - Was OJ guilty?  It's all in the eyes of the beholder.  He did point out that there was strong evidence that the police altered the EDTA evidence - but that's a past issue now.

Bob Baker, thanks for your visit.  We learned a lot, and appreciate your opinions.

My seatmate reminded me that we had 59 Rotarians in attendance, plus 3 guests - where are all of our members? 

YOE, Ernie Wolfe