Chen Has Paid His Dues to Society

Chen has neither been further disciplined by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners; nor has he suffered any further arrests or convictions.

The assertion in the editor’s note in rebuttal to Stewart Chen’s explanation about his conviction for conduct that happened more than 20 years ago ("Chen responds," Feb. 20) that "such conduct should not be shrugged off or taken lightly" is incorrect in fact and in law.

Upon what fact or facts do you base your opinion that the incident was or is being taken lightly or has been taken lightly or shrugged off?

Certainly not by Chen who complied with all the terms and conditions of his sentence. Something that happened 20 minutes ago may be relevant and probative. Something that happened 20 years ago may be relevant, but it is certainly not probative of anything at this time. Time, in fact, does make a difference.

The very foundation of the procedure in California to expunge a conviction from one’s record is the belief that one can be rehabilitated and, therefore, should be given a second chance, free and clear of that conviction.

Lincoln Mintz was, as was his father, Hermann, a premier trial attorney. I know this from my experience as co-counsel with him during my years as a litigator and from my observation of his defending people in trials, which I, as judge, facilitated.

Unfortunately for Chen, the suicide of Lincoln’s son turned Lincoln’s personal and professional life upside down. He just could not cope. He was incapable of performing the most trifle of tasks, such as writing a check.

Accordingly his license to practice law was taken from him for non-payment of state bar dues, for mishandling cases and for abandoning his clients who included Chen.

Because of my experience as a litigator and trial judge I appreciate Lincoln’s apparent conclusion that going to trial as a co-defendant with the "scheme’s apparent ring leader, two attorneys, a pair of doctors and an office manager" was too risky.

Would a jury be able to, as instructed, not consider evidence against a co-defendant also against Chen? It is very difficult to unring a bell. The likely spillover is too great. Therefore, avoid the risk of a trial and, instead, make use of California’s second-chance statute.

The fact that the Alameda County District Attorney agreed to Chen’s plea to two misdemeanors, rather than 16 felony counts with which the Sun reports he was indicted, suggests that Chen was not a major player in a "major insurance-fraud ring."

Expunging (a conviction from a record) is not automatic; it has to be earned. Did Chen earn a second chance? By fact of your own reporting, the answer is a resounding "yes." Since (his conviction in) 1993, Chen has neither been further disciplined by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners; nor has he suffered any further arrests or convictions. He has demonstrated rehabilitation by staying clear of the board and the criminal justice system.

As the Sun reported, he served honorably on our city’s Social Service-Human Relations Board and on the board of our health-care district. It is in the latter position that I formed my opinion that Chen was an effective, capable leader.

During many health-care board meetings he demonstrated an ability to listen attentively and to be patient and courteous. He asked meaningful questions and showed respect toward fellow board members, staff and the public.

I learned that between meetings he would seek out staff, employees and members of the public to learn their views on issues before the board. I concluded that he had the ability to get the job done so I voted for him when he ran for City Council. Should he run for reelection, I will vote for him again.

Regarding this letter, I have neither communicated with Chen in any form nor has he, or any of his representatives, communicated with me.

Chester R. Bartalini Jr. is a retired Superior Court judge.