Extra from Newsletter No. 81, Originally Published: 31 October 2007
I got an interesting 1200-word letter from John, a retired lawyer who practiced for 31 years in Philadelphia, Penn. It made me immediately think of the first long missive I got from a reader, but in this case it’s not a complaint, but rather balance from an insider.
I applaud your work. A primary reason for this is the fact that you make your pitch while maintaining a rigorous fairness (such as advising people right off the bat about the phony Stella Awards, and the fact that you don’t just support all tort reform efforts).
I have differences about viewing frivolous cases. I don’t like them; but consider that some are inevitable with an independent bar and wonder if overall the lawyers and judges aren’t doing a decent job. I would like to see fewer such cases, but considering the 17 million or so cases filed per year, I believe that the number of looney/frivolous cases may not be inordinate. You can rightly say that any such are inordinate, but the matter of maintaining access for legitimate claims is very important.
I view the lawyer-induced delays and high lawyer costs as probably more detrimental, in terms of delaying justice, burdening the courts, and causing parties to settle just in order to get rid of the case and minimize exposure. But in any event, I submit that what you are doing in pointing out the lengths to which some lawyers and citizens will go in exploiting the courts for self-interest is healthy for the legal system.
I am pleased that you are not a lawyer. That has advantages that I lack. Your approach [in your book] is good; I like the boxes on legal definitions and matters, and the comment and Conclusion(s) at the end. You present a good book that is readable to lay persons, and alerts them to some areas of the legal world that are in issue.
I do believe that the bar will have to take the lead if we are ever to effect significant reform. But pressure from the public will be necessary to push the lawyers. I hope that efforts like yours can get people to take a look at both sides of the lawyer issue in order to get a better understanding of the facts, and to then take a constructively critical position. Good luck.
Thanks, John. I especially appreciate it when lawyers enjoy my work.
Anyone who reads carefully understands that I’m not anti-lawyer; as I said in my book (and newsletters), I believe that most lawyers are good and idealistic people who are really trying to make the system work, and are as disgusted as I am when their colleagues abuse the system they’re a part of.
John suggests that a certain level of frivolous cases “are inevitable with an independent bar.” That’s probably true, but even if only 1 percent of cases are frivolous, that comes out to 170,000 frivolous cases per year — such as little old ladies who depend on “Meals on Wheels” for an occasional hot meal getting sued even after they’ve cleared their driveways.
Even if we managed to squeeze that rate down to just 0.1 percent, that’s still 17,000 cases per year, or more than one case in every state every single work day. Is that “inordinate”? You bet! That’s a lot of victims having to defend themselves against ridiculous accusations at great personal cost.
The system will never be perfect, and I don’t expect it to be. But it can be better, and that’s what I’m working toward. Thanks for agreeing with me that pressure from the public is necessary; that’s exactly what the True Stella Awards is about: giving the public real information, not made-up bogus cases, to make the point. If they can be entertained at the same time, well that’s just icing on the cake.
My 2022 Thoughts on the Letter
That may have been the best review of my book I’ve ever read, and it’s highly satisfactory that it was written by a member of the profession that TSA “targets.”
But let’s be careful: lawyers don’t take all the blame: we’ve seen insurance companies, corporations, and delusional individuals who insist on filing cases, doing it themselves if they can’t get a lawyer to go along with it. Meanwhile, I do hope the True Stella Awards has helped reduce the flow of crazy litigation.
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No new cases are being published, so please don’t try to submit cases.
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