Dunn Blasts Accusations of ‘Playing Politics’

A bill to boost lawyers’ contributions to legal aid programs sailed through the state Senate Judiciary Committee (Webcast) late Tuesday, but not before its chairman, Joe Dunn, skewered advocates for suggesting he played politics with the legislation.

Dunn, D-Santa Ana, surprised legal aid advocates two weeks ago when he held up Assembly Bill 2301, saying he had no problem with the measure’s goals but wanted to chat with its author, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, about other issues facing California’s courts, specifically construction needs. Some bill supporters questioned whether Dunn was retaliating against Jones for endorsing John Chiang, Dunn’s successful opponent in the Democratic race for state controller.

Dunn had choice words for the suspicious and for Callaw.com/The Recorder, which reported their concerns. “Frankly certain representatives of the legal services community embarrassed themselves … and I hope those who were not quoted did not participate in that effort to accuse me of holding the bill up for political reasons. I’ve worked very closely with the legal services community for a very long time … and to have representatives from major legal services organizations make the comments they did in the press is an embarrassment to them as professionals, to the organizations they represent, to the community as a whole,” he said.

“My hope is that an incredibly professional community of legal services organizations and all those who dedicate their lives to that will never go down such a route again.”

Dunn said he worried that authorizing the Bar to collect legal aid donations with members’ dues might actually hurt some programs if large firms encouraged their attorneys to contribute through the Bar instead of directly to a preferred agency. “If they were willing to take those risks, fine,” Dunn said Tuesday. After talking with advocates about two other, unspecified issues last week, Dunn said he was ready for a vote on the bill.

Jones, who has declined to talk to Callaw.com about the bill, repeatedly praised Dunn Tuesday for always being “extraordinarily fair and reasonable handling my legislation.” Even advocates who had never questioned Dunn showered him with praise and asked for forgiveness. “I apologize on behalf of the community,” said Julia Wilson, director of the Legal Aid Association of California.

Cheryl Miller

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One Response to “Dunn Blasts Accusations of ‘Playing Politics’”

  1. Last-Minute Laws, Hijinks, in Legislature « Legal Pad Says:

    […] The bills, according to witnesses on the floor, were held up at the request of departing Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana. You may recall that Dunn earlier this summer held up a Jones bill to bolster donations to legal aid agencies. Dunn said he was worried about possible unintentional consequences of the bill, but legal aid advocates wondered whether the senator was retaliating against Jones for endorsing his opponent in the state controller’s race, John Chiang. Dunn eventually released the bill — which was recently signed into law by the governor — but not before railing against The Recorder and legal aid groups for suggesting his actions were politically motivated. […]

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