Verdicts on Our Coverage of Trial Lawyers
Although some good points were made in "The litigation machine" (Legal Affairs, Jan. 29), every impartial study shows that large verdicts, awarded by citizen juries that hear all the evidence on all sides, are rare.
It is also false to suggest that the majority of members of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America make hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a year. More than three-quarters of ATLA members earn considerably less than $100,000 a year. That's far less than most corporate defense attorneys, corporate executives, and many other professionals.
The story says that "flimsy cases impose unnecessary costs on Corporate America and waste the time of overworked judges." Every judge has the power--which should be exercised--to throw out lawsuits that are without merit and to punish those lawyers who bring them or offer frivolous defenses.
The tobacco, insurance, and drug companies--in their quest for special protection from the consumers and workers they hurt--want everyone to think the legal system is broken. It's not.
Frederick M. Baron
Association of Trial Lawyers
The premise of your story runs counter to everything we know about the civil-justice system. Corporate defendants and their insurance companies cause legal costs to spiral by refusing to take responsibility for their misconduct and covering up documents. With corporate money having already bought the executive and legislative branches of government, America's court system is one place where individuals can force changes in the dangerous behavior of powerful industries and prevent future harm. It's a system of which we should be incredibly proud.
Center for Justice
Many defendants or their lawyers are not willing to trust their fates to juries, so they rush to settle. Why? In part, because they focus on highly publicized, outrageous results from jury trials, like the "hot coffee" verdict against McDonald's Corp. Unless and until defendants are willing to allocate resources as soon as possible to defend a claim and to trust the jury system, plaintiffs' lawyers will continue to have the upper hand.
C. Leon Sherman
A step in the "paint-by-numbers lawsuit" was overlooked: Get media coverage. Media exposure is the best way to recruit victims and poison jury pools. The news media, especially TV, can always be relied on to cover the "victim's" case sympathetically because it fits into its villain-victim template. In fact, TV producers scour plaintiffs' lawyers conventions for "content." Reporters are reluctant to expose this unholy alliance.
Your article shows the need for serious tort reform. When the threat of a class action by a trial lawyer is stronger than a mafia shakedown of yesteryear, something should be done. Present-day trial litigators are nothing more than pirates looting and taking bounty wherever and from whomever they can. Justice for a client is simply incidental.
Can anyone who purports to believe in the American ideal of independent courts dispensing impartial justice be proud of a situation in which business interests and trial lawyers square off in every state that has judicial elections in an effort to win courts for their respective sides? Is there any surer formula for assuring public cynicism concerning the integrity of the judiciary?
The 1983 Presidential Commission on Education report, "A Nation at Risk," lead to a national debate on educational policy. A Presidential Commission on Civil Justice could set in motion forces to bring about change in the courts. Otherwise, we will soon be a nation at risk for another reason.
E. Thomas Coleman
Alexandria, Va.Return to top