Adversarial Process

"I shall not rest until every German sees that it is a shameful thing to be a lawyer." - Adolf Hitler

Location: Arkansas, United States

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Justifying Torture

Don't miss this article with links to the PDFs of the memos between our new AG and other Justice Dept. lawyers and the State Dept. on the legality of torture. The willingness to find ways to allow for torture in the name of "protecting America" is frightening. Maybe one of the most important legal debates in America so far this century.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ashcroft - 1, Mouthy Lawyers - 0

Mr. Ashcroft received a victory Thursday with the conviction of Lynne Stewart. Ms. Stewart was charged with aiding a terrorist organization via her representation of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the convicted mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing.

Slate's sympathetic take is here, and a great interview here. For a view of those pleased with the conviction, try Free Republic and reformed liberal David Horowitz.

Stewart quote from the interview:

I would say that you never know what life will bring. It could be that sometime in the future, you are, for some reason, focused on by the government as being someone who is against government interest. You’re going to need someone to defend you. I think everyone wants to feel that, when they get someone they can trust, there is no intrusion from the government, that your adversary knows your moves, your innermost secrets.

Basically, I think the government has an interest in deterring lawyers from representing political people. They have an even greater interest, perhaps, in deterring lawyers from representing Moslem defendants…. But I don’t think it’s enough to say, “Oh, that’s Moslems.” Or “that’s other people.” Or “that’s black people,” or “Those were the Japanese.” You have to be able to say, “This could happen to me. This could happen to someone I love. And I want lawyers to fully represent people.”

Maybe I'm the Blind One

Will someone tell me how damage caps help anyone? Maybe I'm missing something. Here's what I know:

The nation's largest med mal insurer has said the impact on rates is minimal. The evidence show rates go up in states with and without caps and that often states with lower rates don't have caps. And before you say California, you need to make sure you understand what happened pre and post Proposition 103.

So how in the world does this do anything but give insurers a break in those cases where people have been injured the worst? How does it limit "frivolous" lawsuits or even reduce the rate of lawsuits? Do people think cases with those kind of damages won't get filed?

And will someone please explain how it is even remotely possible that periodic payments, another part of the Bush med mal reform, represent any kind of justice or benefit to anyone but insurers?

I'll listen. Maybe not agree, but I'll listen. Remove the blindfold I must be wearing.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

ATLA v. Al-Qaeda

It's on. Get the details here and an interview with Ron Motley on the subject here. Couple of other Ron Motley stories can be found here at Legal Underground.

Speaking of, Evan over there is prolific. I don't see how he keeps up w/ it.

Also, for more of the big dogs of the plaintiff's side impacting society in unusual ways, check out this story on the founder of Wilkes & McHugh, probably the leading nursing home litigation firm in the country.

Damn I'm boring

Ever since stumbling on the medical blogs (thanks DB) I've been surfing quite a bit. There are some amazing sites out there. And I'm a damn poor writer.

Great reads:

Best legal site without a doubt: Legal Underground- be sure to check the comments for the occasional posts by Ted Olson of Overlawyered. How he has the time for it I don't know. I also like Yeoman Lawyer, in part because I can feel his pain in this post and he brings the perspective of a defense lawyer to the tort reform issue.

Science - Check out Respectful Insolence. Plenty of links to other sites with even deeper subjects I dream of having the time to contemplate.

Medicine - I still stand by my old favorites, Dr. Charles (although he's got an awfully thin skin.), and Rangel are where I go first.

Other - I can't leave out Nate, particularly since the introduction of the Skeptics' Circle, a must read. And of course, Shrinkette, who I don't want to classify w/ the other docs, as her perspective is pretty unique.

Back to the point, it's depressing how uninteresting my writing has become. I think part of it is the legal training, which teaches you to recognize the other side's position and be prepared to refute it. That undermines the kind of unquestioning belief in your own rightness you need to take a position in the first place, because you soon see there are two sides to nearly everything. Yet you then must become relentless in weakening your opponent's argument. Which makes you, at a minimum, a bit of a bore. (What's the difference between accountants and lawyers? Accountants know they're boring.)

The other part is that while I've long harbored a bit of an underdog streak. These days I deal so much with those who just don't have a chance in life. Is a lot of it self inflicted? Of course, but much of it is just the luck of who your parents happen to be and what they expose you to and how much they push you to achieve. So I've become almost Naderesque in my anger toward those who would harm or limit those people even further, at least in the particular arena I'm in every day - law.

Oh well, for those 2 of you who do read this, I'm working on it, so try and be patient. I'll be human once again - I hope.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

ATLA is getting it

but it may be too late. The corporate mouthpieces of Common Good, Overlawyered, and ATRA have been on the offensive for years while ATLA has been working individual senators.

The truth is, we can't compete financially with Bush backers. ATLA has apparently recognized this and is finally getting serious about focusing the message.

A little good news from that article: "Only 52 percent of respondents to a January poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press felt that the legal system was in need of major reform, and legal reform ranked significantly below other issues like health care and education."

Thanks to Legal Underground for the heads up. Don't miss this link in the article. Particularly the pic of the baby with the shark.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Nail on the Head

This post by Orac just struck me. I feel exactly the same way in the presence of the truly devout. As Sullivan would put it, "Money Quote:"

"Or, perhaps it is, for whatever reason, my realization that I seem to be no longer capable of such strong, unquestioning belief that makes me uncomfortable when I encounter it."

A Needed Victory

for the Hogs today over Ole Miss. First road win in a couple of years, and after close losses to LSU, Kentucky, and 'Bama we needed to win a close one for the psyche of our young players.

All Perspective is Gone

I found this post on Kevin, MD. How sad that it is titled "Tort Reform is Working." A state that hasn't disciplined a guy who has settled or lost 40 malpractice actions in a couple of years now makes it even harder to hold him accountable.

And the amazing thing is that the only evidence that tort reform is "working" is that insurers are making more money. Which, in the end, is what this is all about. And doctors hoping to save a few dollars on their insurance premiums.

I wonder when the new study will come out showing how much less "defensive medicine" is being practiced. Or will that claim just disappear until the next economic downturn when the insurers aren't making as much and come back for more "reform"? Who wants to bet on that? Anyone?

And doctors call lawyers greedy. . .

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Cost of Reliving Your Childhood

We all know those people who are living through their kids' athletics. They scream at officials during peewee games, belittle the coach in front of the child, and generally act like an ass at every turn, with their children quickly picking up on their attitude and act and emulating them.

Well, it's good to see at least one coach strike back and win. Hopefully all you guys out there screaming at the high schoolers calling fouls on your 5th grader will think twice before cussing them after you read this.

Of course, seeing as how this parent was a doctor, DB may think he should have had a special court made up of other physicians who would understand the terribly unique pressure he's under. This verdict is probably the result of a jury of simpletons unable to understand such complex issues in his mind. I'm sure Common Good will be on the case shortly.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Just above used car salesmen

We have all heard the oft cited statistic that lawyers rank just above used car salesmen in respectability/honorableness in the public's eyes. (I tried to find the survey link but couldn't - anyone got it?) And as a lawyer, personally I struggle with that every day.

Now, I enjoy a good lawyer joke as much as the next guy. But I cannot pretend the constant attacks don't get to me at times. Beyond the stress of dealing with people in their toughest moments over at times truly heart wrenching issues, which is tough enough, it seems that one can't even turn on the television or open the newspaper without reading another attack on the "excesses" of lawyers. Or maybe I just read too many business newspapers and physician blogs.

Seriously, though, I would say in my 3 years of small town practice, where I actually deal with an individual client on a daily basis, I have gotten cross with maybe 1% of my clients. I have certainly disagreed with clients more often, but I'm talking to the point where we both go our separate ways and neither have anything good to say about the other - although given the privilege issues I usually just end up telling myself. But am I deluding myself? Do the majority of my clients leave thinking I completely screwed them over?

Now, I knew the deal going in, and usually I'm able to rationalize my frustration/anger/disappointment by remembering the clients who did appreciate what I was able to do for them, and realizing the motives of some of those who are on the attack. And I understand that when people come to a lawyer, it's not because things are going well, so their time with me is generally not associated with good times.

Yet I have to ask myself, if for no other reason than because Dr. Charles and Aporkalypse Now over at Woopig accuse me of it regularly, am I blind to my own role and that of my colleagues in this? Self examination is always necessary, and if you do this for a living you know that in any bad situation, there is plenty of blame to go around. If nothing else, the criticisms do make me question my professional actions regularly and consider their perception in a larger arena than just the courts.

At any rate, for those of you interested, Legal Underground, has a discussion on the subject here. A few choice lines from the comments are below and a very strong criticism can be found here.:

"there has been a real erosion of law from a profession into a business, and that is widely known. Lawyers have a unique relationship to the law, and to the Courts, and therefore their use of them is everyone's business. In a former era, at least 30 or more years ago, this was taken much more seriously."

"I hate lawyers because I'm just generally filled with self loathing."

"1. people see us acting for people or companies they dont like (criminals, multinationals etc) even though the public will generally not understand in any detailed way the issues in the case (ie someone says the multinational poisoned the lake, it must be true). So guilt by association"

If you wander to LU, by the way, you'll quickly notice it is a much nicer site than my own, and the writer is more in the St. Nate and Dr. Charles vein in that it's less stilted and far easier to read than mine. My own writing skills have been permanently damaged by the law, I'm afraid. I should sue my Legal Writing professor. Just kidding.