Does Legalman Get a Bum Rap?

“With all due respect to lawyers, it’s wonderful that you have this intricate knowledge. You break down words to the nth degree. And sometimes I find it rather disgusting. And it goes on and on.” – Sonny Bono

After decades of trying, those brave souls who have been carrying on the fight for sweeping changes in the American legal system still have their foot on first base. Lawyers (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Legalman”) and consumer-rights advocates go berserk on cue whenever the subject of legal reform is so much as mentioned.

The argument is that if legislation is passed that would reduce litigation, there would be no one to protect “the poor,” the injured, and those who claim to have been discriminated against (to name but a handful of today’s victims). It’s enough to make a battle-scarred survivor of the legal system roll his eyes.

Legalman harbors about the same amount of compassion toward the purported victims he represents as did Ivan the Terrible toward his victims. He actually preys on the pathetic concept of victimization. More specifically, he preys on a society fraught with crybabies, whiners, and complainers. Make no mistake about it, there are legitimate cases of people who have suffered serious injury as a result of someone else’s negligence. The problem is, they represent but a small fraction of the total number of personal-injury lawsuits filed in this country each year.

By now, everyone has read about the endless stream of daffy civil suits and awards that have played a major role in transforming the U.S. into an economic time bomb. Based on anything from an insult to the loss of a job, lawsuits long ago became a national pastime, catapulting many of Legalman’s ranks into centimillionaires – and a handful into billionaires.

What we have here, folks, is what is commonly referred to in finer circles as a fix. Legalman not only argues the law in court, he also makes the law and decides where and how it should be applied. Lawyers are lawyers, judges are lawyers, and well over half of all U.S. congressmen are lawyers.

Bolstered by an incestuous partnership between government and the legal profession, Legalman has a license to tell blatant lies (both in legal briefs and in the courtroom), make totally unfounded accusations at the drop of a tongue, and dispense knowingly false information without fear of fine or punishment. If a civilian witness were to say under oath some of the things that are standard fare for Legalman, he would quickly find himself indicted for perjury.

You might assume that, in an effort to stop Legalman from stirring up frivolous litigation, I would be in favor of reversing the landmark 1977 legislative decision that gave him the legal right to advertise his services like a used-car salesman. Not so. I believe in every individual’s right to freely solicit business in the marketplace, no matter how repugnant his methods may be.

No, the solution is not to deprive Legalman of his First Amendment rights. The way to curtail his mischievous ways is to make him accountable for his actions, the same as us common folks. In real terms, what this means is:

First, Legalman should be held civilly and criminally liable for what he says and does, both in and outside of the courtroom. A parade of lawyers on trial for perjury would do wonders for cleansing one of America’s costliest industries – litigation – by forcing Legalman to play by the rules.

Second, a tough “loser-pays” law should be implemented to help curb frivolous lawsuits. To give it meaningful impact, Legalman should be required to pay a percentage of the other side’s litigation costs if he ends up on the losing end of a lawsuit.

Third, if Legalman’s losing case is deemed to be frivolous, the system should make it easier for the winner to sue him for his irresponsible actions. A few multimillion-dollar awards against Legalman would make him think twice about initiating so many “why-not-throw-something-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks” lawsuits.

Litigation is a major factor in the continuing demise of the economic infrastructure of the U.S. The state of California alone has at least 10 times the number of attorneys as all of Japan. Increasing numbers of people simply don’t want to work. They’re all too busy playing the lottery and filing lawsuits.

Every year, Legalman institutes more than 20 million new lawsuits, with litigation costs in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Close to $200 billion a year is spent on litigation insurance alone.

Is there a long-term solution to this crippling epidemic? I believe so. I have long advocated that private industry, which has the most to gain, should fund a Legalman Rehabilitation Labor Camp (LRLC).

Every personal-injury attorney in the United States would be placed in the LRLC, where he would be sprayed daily with industrial-strength Legalman Disinfecting Spray, rehabilitated, and, most important, given training that would arm him with the skills necessary to provide a legitimate product or service in the marketplace.

The detention period could be for as little as one year, but in no event would Legalman be allowed to walk the streets of America again until such time as he had convinced an impartial private-industry panel that his parasitic tendencies were cured and that he was capable of becoming an honest, productive citizen.

Legalman would then remain on parole for a period of five years, or until such time as he had demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that his rehabilitation was permanent, whichever occurred later. During the parole period, proof of association with any party suspected of being involved in frivolous litigation, or association with any other kind of known parasite, would trigger an automatic reincarceration.

(Note: That’s reincarceration, not reincarnation – which is the last thing in the world we want to see happen to Legalman.)

I hope nothing I have said here will lead you to believe that I have an axe to grind with lawyers in general. On the contrary, I believe Legalman has been getting a bum rap ever since the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger opined that lawyers generally overcharge their clients and that law schools and bar associations neglect professional ethics.

In fairness, I believe it’s only about 97 percent of the attorneys in this country who are lazy, incompetent, negligent, and shameless, yet they make a bad name for the whole profession.

Life just isn’t fair.