Edward Humes's feature "Eyes in the Sky" [August] provided an outstanding overview of the current state of unmanned aircraft development and regulation in the United States. His article raises an important issue about both the need for a regulatory structure and the role that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should (or should not) play.
The FAA has been forced to squander inordinate time and resources addressing privacy and constitutional concerns. No doubt, these are important issues, but they are better left to legislatures and courts. Meanwhile, other countries are developing countless ways to put unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to productive and innovative use.
As the article points out, many state legislatures have already addressed concerns about UAV proliferation by proposing to limit public agencies' use of drones. These states may quickly learn that they have, in fact, overregulated, suppressing their own ability to harness this important technology.
On July 26, the FAA issued restricted category-type certificates for two unmanned aircraft models, the Insitu ScanEagle and the AeroVironment Puma. This permits both to begin commercial operations in U.S. airspace, albeit in remote areas of the Arctic. These seminal FAA approvals are a step in the right direction, as well as an opportunity to prove the commercial value of unmanned aircraft technology. Let's hope that the FAA can open similar avenues for UAVs in agriculture, emergency response, and wildlife management.
UAV regulation is certainly needed, but knee-jerk reactions and waylaid federal processes do little more than guarantee that the rest of the world will whiz by as our quadcopters sit grounded. Let's get flying!
Ashbury Park, New Jersey
By the Numbers
I enjoyed "New Balance at the California Supreme Court" [August], and I'm a fan of Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, particularly in comparison to her predecessor. We even attended the same law school (though she has arguably made more of a name for herself than I have, in spite of her being more math-challenged).
Nevertheless, I continue to be amazed that more has not been said about the Chief's 2013 State of the Judiciary address. My favorite part of the speech is where she says she's been told that 1 percent is "about" one penny for every dollar. We can only hope that the staffer who told her that 1 percent is only about
one penny on the dollar is not too heavily involved in the court's finances. Priceless!
Michael Goodman, Los Angeles
Don't Be a Stranger
I enjoyed the article "Remote Chance ..." [In House, August], in which Lily Hughes explains the virtues of working remotely.
Ms. Hughes is right: It is not necessary for a legal team to work together in one office to be successful. Our very own small team is split up - four of our lawyers are in Orange County and two are in other states. We manage to get our work done, and I rarely hear any negative comments that are location based, if I may put it that way. (I allow for the modern expectation that lawyers be available 24/7).
Still, there are some cautions and limitations. A young and ambitious lawyer who lacks visibility at headquarters risks slowing the development of his or her career. Networking may also be compromised, in the sense that the remote lawyer may not be in the loop on critical information. As Hughes recognizes, there is no substitute for face-to-face communication.
Another point relates to expenses. Hughes works for a successful company where a few extra airplane trips for the remote lawyer may not even add up to a rounding error. Many companies would not be able to support this cost. Thus, the aspiring remote lawyer would have to pay for her travel expenses privately, potentially putting a strain on her budget and her personal relationship.
Perry Pappous, Cypress
Letters on Letters
I was disappointed that your September Letters page included two impugning the integrity of John Barnett ["Projecting Doubt," June] and, by implication, the California criminal defense bar. The letters betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the adversarial system and a stygian ignorance of John Barnett himself.
I spent 15 years as a prosecutor opposing the criminal defense bar (including John) and the last 27 as a judge disappointing them. I can attest to their integrity, their quality, and their dedication to the Constitution and their clients.
There is nothing "disgusting" (as both letter-writers described it) about criminal defense lawyers' role in the system or the way they carry it out. They are hard-working professionals, and John Barnett is among the best of a very good bunch.
By publishing those letters, you lent legitimacy to an outmoded stereotype these people have to fight against daily. It was a lapse in your usually excellent judgment.
William Bedsworth, Santa Ana
Tim Phillips' and Jennifer Cowan's letters, responding to your June feature "Projecting Doubt," express disgust with the "overzealous representation" and the "tactics" used by John Barnett in defending police officers charged with brutality. Did they miss the part in law school that said the bedrock of our criminal justice system is that every defendant is entitled to an aggressive defense by a competent lawyer, and that both sides are supposed to make their best case and the jury sorts it out? So what are they suggesting? That lawyers stop effectively representing defendants they do not like, or that Mr. Barnett should strive to give his clients a half-hearted defense? Given your magazine's circulation, I assume Phillips and Cowan are lawyers, and I expect more from members of the bar.
Stephen Miller, La Mesa