Joint responsibility

to provide justice

President Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court wants what all parties tasked with protecting the city's citizens want: a criminal-justice system that administers justice swiftly and efficiently. But, by unfairly targeting those advocating for the same end - court-appointed defense attorneys - this shared goal is lost. ("Judge tells lawyers to speed cases up," Monday).

Defense attorneys are but one cog in a machine that is in desperate need of repair, operating alongside the Police Department, the District Attorney's Office, court administrators, and the judiciary itself. As representatives to individuals who are innocent until proven guilty, court-appointed defense attorneys must respect the protections constitutionally provided to the accused. These attorneys have no incentive to unduly delay a criminal trial by requesting needless continuances - which must be approved by the presiding judge. They receive compensation from the court only when the case is over.

The Philadelphia Bar Association stands ready to serve as a resource to help facilitate a better criminal- justice system. This must be a shared agenda with shared responsibility.

Sayde J. Ladov


Philadelphia Bar Association


Performance standards

Every type of business in the world is moving toward performance management standards except politics and government. Thank you, Judge Dembe, for setting some measures to hold for court-appointed/paid lawyers.

I hope this move begins to wake other people up to the need for building real measures into public- service jobs. Obviously, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham does not believe in such measures, as The Inquirer has proven in its assessment of conviction rates, court delays, etc. ("Justice delayed, dismissed, denied," Dec. 13). In her defense of the job she has done, she as much as said that she does not measure these things. It is hoped that her successor, Seth Williams, will see things differently.

Let's demand that before someone goes into office that he lays out the metrics by which we can measure success - and then, let's track successes and failures, make the results public, and let officeholders either stand proudly on their successes or defend why they have accomplished little or nothing.

Jerry Tapley


Depends on

where you start

A recent letter ("A lesson in counting," Tuesday) chiding the Inquirer for ending the first decade of the 21st century a year early is somewhat off the mark. Calenders are based on conventions, and when AD (Common Era) was conceived as beginning in Year One, the concept of zero did not exist.

Now that it does, most people are comfortable with thinking of the new millennium as beginning with 2000 and concluding with 2009, or 10 years inclusive. So one is left with a choice between the traditional Gregorian calender postulating AD One, or the instinctive, modern preference of counting from zero. History and psychology are more relevant in this case than arithmetic.

James Miles




Let's see if I have this right: Don't screen all healthy 40-year-old women for breast cancer because the yield of true positives (cases of breast cancer) is low, and false positives generate needless anxiety, extra visits, extra procedures, and extra costs. The message: Focus on higher risk women, 50 or older.

Yet, do screen all 40-year-old women (and their 75-year-old mothers, their 9-year-old sons, and others) who want to board an airplane as potential terrorists (remove shoes, confiscate their water bottles, examine their Ziplock bags) in spite of the fact that they don't represent the threatening population. And if you mess up, then step up your efforts to screen the same low-risk population with more ridiculous restrictions.

In public health, we talk about targeted screening, and they are not dirty words. Homeland Security, TSA, and those who profess to keep us safe, you aren't fooling anyone.

Karen M. Kaplan


Save owls

or humans?

According to Steven Conn's logic ("Nothing but a load of carp from the GOP," Tuesday), all environmental initiatives to combat the deterioration of ecosystems should be halted until all diseases on earth are eradicated that might harm a human.

After all, how dare we protect one animal when so much human life is at risk? Extending this argument, as long as humans are dying for lack of health care, why are we hamstringing logging companies to save spotted owls or oil drillers to save caribou when tax revenue from these activities could pay for universal care? After all, should not we sacrifice everything to save these unfortunates?

Liberals like Conn seem intent on creating an America where unless you are sick and desperate for care, you would not want to live there be you animal, vegetable, or human.

Michael Hudson