President's Message

Posted by: Cory Hohnbaum on May 1, 2016


by Cory Hohnbaum

I was at my 12-year-old son’s school tennis match the other day. He is fortunate to play on his middle school tennis team. He does not play year-round and hasn’t played that many matches in his life. Most of the boys on his team, and the team they played that day, were like him in that respect. They enjoy the game but it is not a focus of their lives. 

Youth tennis is not like most sports in that there is no referee or umpire. The kids make their own calls about what balls are in and out and they keep their own score. I was watching several matches at the same time and was struck by how often the other team’s players called balls out that even from my vantage point many feet away were obviously in. This happened not once or twice but many times. One of our players took the unusual step of asking for a coach to be a line judge because of all the obvious bad calls. My son’s coach, a former college tennis player who is very mild-mannered and seen it all, at one point incredulously remarked to the opposing coach that “the ball was at least a foot in” when the opposing player called it out. The opposing coach had no reaction.

After the matches, I saw an acquaintance of mine who was a parent of a child on the other team. I commented that I have never seen such a display of chronic cheating in all my time with youth sports. His reaction? “Well, I wouldn’t say it was chronic cheating,” as if a little cheating was perfectly acceptable. It was a disappointing and disheartening reaction. Where I come from, if someone cheated they were called out and shamed until they got the message. Those that cut corners as youngsters are very likely to do the same as adults and this parent and that school were failing those players.

I was also disappointed by another recent example of a stark absence of honor. I have long admired Coach Krzyzewski, Duke’s basketball coach, which made his recent conduct all the more dispiriting. When Oregon beat Duke in the NCAA tournament the best player for Oregon was asked what Coach K said to him after the game. The player responded by saying that Coach K told him he was too good to take a shot as time was winding down and the outcome of the game was not in doubt. When Coach K was told the Oregon player said that, Coach K flatly denied it. But CBS had a microphone that picked up the exchange and confirmed the player’s account. When confronted with that evidence, Coach K went into public relations mode, apologizing for talking to the player but not apologizing for not telling the truth about what he said to him. 

Of course, in our profession sometimes what is right and wrong is not as simple as knowing to tell the truth. We are all subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct and subject to discipline for not scrupulously abiding by them. Last year our Bar put on over 160 hours of CLE time on ethics topics in an effort to educate our members on those Rules and how to abide by them. The Bar’s Grievance Committee, ably chaired last year by Fred DeVore and this year by Mark Michael, investigates complaints against lawyers and makes recommendations to the State Bar about possible ethics violations. 

Our Bar takes this responsibility very seriously and we are indebted to lawyers in our community who have devoted their time and energy to leading and serving on this important Committee. We do not shirk from this important task or look the other way when there is an infraction. Over the last five years, 16 MCB lawyers have been suspended, one has been disbarred and 30 have received lesser punishment. We owe it to ourselves and the community we serve to tolerate nothing less than the highest ethical conduct and I am proud of our Bar’s consistent devotion to this work.