BY PUBLISHER EMERITUS ARMAND MIELE
I always had the highest respect for lawyers, and considered them to be the pillar of our society. Being sworn to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law within our court system is an honor, and an expression of trust in our country.
Sometimes we find lawyers using the system to flaunt the laws, to gain power and money. To me these are criminals, abusing their positions of legal authority. These abusers hate any kind of government regulation; after all, they know the laws, and no one can tell them what is right and what is wrong. One government proposal requires lawyers who know of fraud committed by their corporate clients to expose the fraud to the client’s managers or board. Some of the lawyers affected claim that if they have to report fraud, they might have to withdraw from a client. It would hinder their business.
These are greedy lawyers, hiding behind their trusted law degrees. They are in law solely for the money, and the heck with society—they’ll get theirs, and let the rest of society fend for themselves. These lawyers know the system, and use it for their own selfish reasons.
There are also lawyers who hide behind the very noble idea that everyone should be defended to the fullest, no matter what. But how far do you take it?
When a lawyer interviews a client I’m sure he has an idea of whether the case is likely to succeed on sound legal grounds. Once the lawyer comes to this conclusion, is it the money or the law that governs how he handles the case? An honest lawyer, wanting to uphold his professional oath, will refuse to be part of a case in which the client asks him to do something dishonest or destructive of justice. He will also refuse to take a client whose claim is shaky, or not worth the client’s expense. A lawyer in it for the money alone, with no concern for the rule of law or society, will take any client who can pay the retainer fee.
Now, the client has to continue to pay as the case goes on. It can take many years of getting nowhere before the client gets tired or runs out of money, finally has to pay the lawyer to settle the case, and finds out that he’s worse off than he was in the beginning. The only winner in the case was the lawyer. He gets paid, win or lose.
I know of a case where there was a fight in a building, between two men, about a woman. The landlord had nothing to do with this fight, and rarely went to the building. The big bully in the fight got hurt, and found a lawyer to sue the landlord and his corporation for $15 million. The reason to sue for that crazy amount was to put fear into the defense, and to give the client a false sense of the case’s importance, to convince him it was worthwhile to sue.
These types of lawyers are filling the courts with frivolous cases, with no basis whatsoever in the law. A while ago, Governor Pataki signed a bill to eliminate the mention of damage amounts in liability suits during the filing process. The lawyer is now allowed to specify a damage figure only during opening or closing arguments.
The insurance companies and courts should carefully review cases; lawyers who bring frivolous cases should be immediately punishable with sanctions by law. Such cases shouldn’t have to go through the whole court system. It can be expensive, and that’s what crooked lawyers count on. A crooked lawyer is not interested in winning the case, but in being a big enough nuisance to the defendant and the insurance company that he can expect a monetary settlement. In England, the loser in a “deep pockets” lawsuit has to pay all the expenses of the court and the defendant, as well as his own lawyer.
At one time, lawyers couldn’t advertise as they do today. Today, every ambulance chaser can put an ad on the cover of the phone book. I call it bunk. “Free Consultation! No Recovery, No Fee!” Who are they kidding? Read the fine print on the contract before you hire one of these guys—whether it’s in photocopy expenses or paralegal services, they’ll find a way to take your money, even if you win.