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Protect public from bad lawyers

Jeff Stern's exposé of the implosion of John McCormick's legal career ("In pursuit of John McCormick," cover story, May 16) is a story that needed to be told. Many local attorneys, myself included, had a hunch that all was not well with McCormick's law practice long before he disappeared.

We attorneys do indeed have a tendency to protect each other, as it is often only our colleagues who understand the pressure of performing day after day in an adversarial environment to the satisfaction of our clients, our judges, our colleagues, and, ultimately, the N.C. State Bar. It is easy to become cynical in such a stressful environment, and cynicism inevitably opens the door to the type of unethical behavior McCormick engaged in.

Since last year, I have been urging our local Bar to form a "professionalism support initiative (PSI)" within Judicial District 15-B, which encompasses Orange and Chatham counties. A PSI is a voluntary assistance program handling client-lawyer, lawyer-lawyer, and lawyer-judge issues. Volunteer attorneys and judges are trained to intervene and offer assistance to their peers in a non-confrontational manner after a report has been made regarding the attorney's or judge's unprofessional behavior. As unprofessional behavior often precedes unethical behavior, a local PSI can be the first line of defense in protecting the public from a wayward attorney.

I am pleased that our local Bar recently voted to implement a PSI for the purpose of promoting professionalism and bolstering public confidence in the legal profession. My hope is that it will provide the public and our local attorneys and judges with an avenue for reporting and addressing unprofessional behavior long before it reaches the level of McCormick's conduct. First and foremost, attorneys and judges are public servants and we should be working together to ensure that the citizens of Orange and Chatham counties are not harmed by one of our own.

Betsy J. Wolfenden
Chapel Hill

Raleigh leads on conservation

Your May 16 article ("Bad news for the Neuse," by Lisa Sorg) rightly points out the continued degradation of the Neuse River and Falls Lake, Raleigh's drinking water supply. A critical element in protecting the Neuse and other North Carolina rivers and streams is indeed land conservation. Undeveloped land along streams filters polluted runoff, is more cost-effective than technological fixes, reduces flooding downstream, and preserves land for recreation, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty.

In addition to your mention of Wake County aiming to preserve 30 percent of the county's land, the City of Raleigh has also recognized that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The city helped to create the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative in 2005. The initiative builds on the great land conservation work private and public partners in the basin have been involved with for years. The partners developed a comprehensive regional plan to protect nine drinking water supplies in the six counties in the Upper Neuse basin, and have already protected more than 10 miles of streams, with another 17 miles in the pipeline.

For Raleigh's outstanding vision and leadership, including committing $1.5 million over three years for land protection efforts, the city was recently awarded the "Local Government Conservation Partner of the Year" award by North Carolina's 24 local land trusts.

D. Reid Wilson, Executive Director
Conservation Trust for North Carolina

Help children of inmate moms

The statistics about female inmates and their children are staggering. Therefore, it was with great interest that I read Debbie and Dave Biesack's findings in Patrick O'Neill's column (Religious Left, May 9).

It is in indeed tragic, as the Biesacks point out, that there is no facility in North Carolina for pregnant inmates nor any in-prison accommodations for newborns, infants or young children. Our Children's Place (OCP) is changing that reality. In partnership with the Department of Correction and through the efforts of community members—teachers, lawyers, health care providers, faith leaders and others—OCP will help maintain the vital bonds between mothers and their children.

OCP is a residential initiative allowing young children to live with their mothers while the women serve out their sentences for nonviolent offenses. OCP will focus on treating 20 nonviolent inmate mothers and up to 40 preschool children. It is designed to break the intergenerational cycle of crime, poverty, substance abuse and family violence. If renovation money is appropriated this year, OCP plans to open its doors by 2009. The women and children will live in a special, monitored facility modeled after programs in several other states.

OCP offers children of incarcerated mothers the opportunity to bond with their mothers and build a foundation for the future. As a secondary benefit to the children, the program offers inmate mothers the opportunity to change the self-destructive attitudes and negative personal choices that shape criminal activities. In this way we can lower recidivism among this inmate population.

Making OCP a reality will take a community effort. To learn more, please call us at 843-2670. We welcome your interest and support.

Mary U. Andrews, Chair
Our Children's Place Board of Directors

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