Prof. Philip E. Johnson of UC Berkeley (Letters, Oct. 22), "Judicial Vote Reconsideration," has had a change of heart. He now says that he will vote to retain Justices Joseph Grodin and Cruz Reynoso. To paraphrase an old saying: There are four types of lies--lies, damned lies, statistics, and Phil Johnson.
Johnson has spent the better part of a year attacking Grodin and Reynoso. He has distorted their records, attempted to link them with politically unpopular Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, and has advocated their defeat on Nov. 4. But now that he has changed his mind, he says that "at this point, the important thing is to look to the future, not the past."
Wrong. At this point, the important thing is to look squarely at Johnson and his jilted cronies: State Sen. H.L. Richardson, the Butcher-Forde public relations firm, Sen. John Doolittle (R-Citrus Heights), the Dolphin Group, et al. They have used the public's frustration with a plodding, ineffective judicial system (and they have used the families of crime victims) to further their political agendas and line their pockets with gold.
Where is the $6 million that has been raised for this campaign? It certainly has not been spent against the justices: except for some bumper stickers, a few brochures and a pitifully small, last-minute television buy, the money has apparently been spent on these politicos.
These people, Johnson included, seized on an issue that their private polls told them was ripe, and they sucked all the cash and political juice they could out of it. Without hesitation, they will abandon these crime victims' families on the evening of Nov. 4, and proceed to whatever new hot issue their pollsters deliver. There are victims of crime, and there are victims of consultants.
Prof. Johnson bought into this scheme, and blasted away at these justices at press conferences around the state. Now he claims that he never meant to imply opposition to Grodin and Reynoso, that he opposes only Bird. This comes under the heading of "Who's Kidding Who?"
On Sept. 18, at a press conference in Sacramento, Johnson marked four justices for defeat. He has repeatedly been quoted criticizing almost every member of the court, calling judges "erratic," "incredibly capricious" and "drifting." He even went so far as to attack Justice Reynoso for authoring a majority opinion that gave a retrial to a widow who brought suit against an insurance company for failing to pay on her husband's life insurance policy! Searle vs. Allstate Life Insurance, 38 Cal. 3d 425 (1985).
Now supporting the justices, he says that "the defeat of Reynoso and Grodin together would be attributed to the power of an emotional campaign to link their names with Bird." Believe it. You are hearing it from one of the architects of that emotional campaign.
Apparently, Johnson doesn't read his own press clippings, let alone the papers he has drafted against the court. He now says that his writings "make a strong case only against Bird and indicate that the other justices have acted independently of her and with more moderation."
As professors are wont to tell their students, you had better go back and reread your work, Phil, because that is not at all what you said. It is one thing to retract distorted and unethical statements; it is quite another to pretend they were never made.
And by the way, in his letter to The Times, he failed to point out that he was paid handsomely ($1,000 each, was it?) for each of the papers he authored against the judges. He has taken back his statements, is he also giving back the money? As a member of the Bar, and a professor of law, he should be ashamed of himself.
NEIL B. RINCOVER
Yes on Reynoso