By Evan Schaeffer, Special to Legal Underground
WASHINGTON-- By executive proclamation, President Bush created a new circle of hell designed exclusively for plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Rumored to be the brainchild of advisor Karl Rove, the presidential fiat redistricts hell by adding a new circle to Dante’s original nine.
Rove wasn’t available for comment. But on deep background, a man who looks like Rove commented, “It was an afterthought, really. But as long as our president continues to have an inside track to the Lord Almighty, we thought we’d call in a favor. And so it was done.”
To some, banishing trial lawyers to hell by executive fiat seems a bit harsh. More typically, however, the president’s decision is being greeted with resounding cheers.
“It’s about time,” said a doctor in Des Moines. “If Bush hadn’t done it, I was going to find a way to do it myself.”
In Sacramento, a corporate CEO agreed. “Trial lawyers, defense lawyers, transactional lawyers, whatever—all of them should be in hell.”
In Madison County, Illinois, an area some already call a “legal hellhole,” the response was mixed. One prominent plaintiffs’ firm held an impromptu pro-lawyer rally. “We can laugh/we can yell/we don’t care/we’re going to hell,” the lawyers chanted in unison, apparently with irony.
Meanwhile, the man who looks like Karl Rove explained Bush’s decision. “With tort reform stalled in Congress, something had to be done to insure that large American corporations can continue to cheat and harm the public with impunity. Banishing trial lawyers to hell will help accomplish that goal.”
To commemorate his historic decision, President Bush commissioned an artist to paint a depiction of what is now being called “Bush’s tenth circle.” Three-quarters complete, the painting shows figures recognizable as trial lawyers who have previously drawn the President’s ire.
Though not for the squeamish, the painting will soon hang in the Oval Office. In stark reds and blacks, it depicts the sickening pandemonium of the lawyers' hell. Amid the flames, the painting captures the greasy, sweat-stained faces of lawyers well known to the American public, a few who agreed to sit for the painting so it would more accurately depict their features.
Gerry Spence is charred a grisly black, unprotected by his western-style buckskins.
Johnnie Cochran escapes the torment only through the efforts of his most famous client, O.J. Simpson, who is also depicted residing in hell. With tight-fitting leather gloves protecting his hands, Simpson is shown lifting Cochran above the flames.
In the foreground of the painting, several class action lawyers gesture wildly as their boat threatens to capsize into a lake of molten lava. Recognizable lawyers include Ron Motley, David Boies, and Stan Chesley. Melvyn Weiss and Bill Lerach grip opposite sides of the boat.
Not surprisingly, trial lawyers unable to profit from the valuable publicity of their image in the Oval Office have objected to the painting, calling it unfair.
“There is no litigation explosion,” said one. “All this mumbo jumbo about frivolous lawsuits and out-of-control punitive damage awards—it’s the creation of big business lobbyists hoping to draw attention away from their clients’ own illegal acts.”
Others point out that trial lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, and that very few, if any, belong in hell.
“If their only sin is aggressively protecting the interests of their clients—so what,” said a schoolteacher in Detroit. “That's what lawyers do.”
Back at the White House, the president is pondering whether to expand hell once again. “There’s this guy that wrote a book,” said the Karl Rove look-alike. “It’s currently a bestseller. Its author might be getting a circle of hell all to himself.”