The lawyer from the planet Og arrived on Earth last month from a galaxy far, far away. His mission: to conduct research for Chapter 45 of Volume 768 of the popular Ogian reference work, The Very Large Guide to Lawyers of the Universe. The chapter's title: "American Lawyers."
The lawyer from the planet Og is very far from home, and his assignment was an unpopular one. He’s not sure why he drew the short ogstraw, but it was probably as retribution for the way he suffocated the entire lawyer population of Andromeda 765. It was a group of lawyers that would have annoyed any sentient being.
First, the editorial writers touch on the recent drug scandals in the courts of St. Clair County, Illinois:
We profess shock at the death of a young judge from cocaine intoxication, the arrest of his friend and fellow judge for heroin possession, the participation of both in ticket-fixing and charge-dropping schemes for their drug suppliers, and the other crimes and casualties associated with this ring of scofflaws . . .
According to the editorical writers at the Madison County Record, you might think this is bad, but it's actually much worse. The heroin and cocaine, the arrests and ticket-fixing and charge-dropping, the drug suppliers and scofflaws . . . this is nothing but "the tip of the iceberg."
What's the rest of the iceberg composed of?
Class-action lawyers, of course!
Is there anyone in St. Clair or Madison County who can honestly say he didn’t know that unscrupulous attorneys from all over the country have been flocking to our courts for years, representing bogus classes with bogus claims, for the sole purpose of “legally” extorting money from legitimate companies with useful products and helpful services?
That's right. The editorial writers at the Madison County Record have taken the recent drug-related events in St. Clair County as an opportunity to trot out their same old, tired, politically-motivated, false claims about plaintiffs' lawyers.
What's surprising to me is the way that the editorial writers at the Madison County Record--who may have a valid point to make now and then, you never know--allow their message to be lost in the noisy din of their own overstatement.
If the editorical writers had a valid point to make . . . well, they lost me at the headline.
Go ahead and read the full editorial if you must, but only for grins.
BONUS LINKS . . . Here's some background on the drug-related happenings in St. Clair County, Illinois, from the Belleville News-Democrat--
In a review of The Letters of William Gaddis, Paul Griffiths writes that William Gaddis's satire about law and lawyers, A Frolic of His Own, was his "most appealing" work--
Through the late 1980s and early 90s, however, he was clearly having fun, too, writing the legal satire that became A Frolic of His Own. As he read up cases in the eighty-four volumes of American Jurisprudence and corresponded with lawyers, he was putting together an exuberant comedy voiced again largely in dialogue, intercut with court opinions, passages from his Civil War play (whose fictional author is suing a Hollywood studio for breach of copyright) and, as always, long sentences of startling descriptive power. Half the size of The Recognitions or JR, funnier and certainly sunnier than Carpenter’s Gothic, this was his most appealing book.
When I last reported on A Frolic of His Own, I was stuck on page 188. I've now made it to page 310. It's still slow going and I don't pick up the book very often. While parts are incredibly funny, the whole doesn't work for me. Too many details about the law practice seem wrong. Since the parodies of depositions and court opinions don't seem even partially rooted in reality, you end up being distracted rather than entertained. In my opinion, they just don't work. The characters, on the other hand, are very funny, and the whole book is interesting in the way that difficult literature is often interesting--you want to figure out what the writer is up to.
Gaddis's last real novel, "A Frolic of His Own," rambles on for nearly six hundred pages in illustration of how a system designed to create order (American law) can end up sponsoring disorder. The book is ideal for graduate study. It makes a banal but unexceptionable social point (we litigate too much in America), it's riddled with motifs, quotations, stories within stories, and countless allusions to Gaddis's own earlier works and other famous texts (better brush up on your Plato and Longfellow), and its only aesthetic weakness, really, is that much of it is repetitive, incoherent, and insanely boring. This novel, of course, got the warmest reviews of any of Gaddis's books, and was given one of those unofficial lifetime-achievement National Book Awards.
There's much more about Gaddis in this very interesting essay. (Incidentally, Franzen goes on to say that one of the best things about the A Frolic of His Own is the legal opinions, which proves, I guess, that reactions to parody can vary widely.)
A lawsuit alleging fraudulent activity in Avery v. State Farm is moving forward as a federal judge last month denied the defendants’ motion to stay to discovery.
And it appears that the plaintiffs – Mark Hale, Todd Shale and Carly Vickers Morse— are preparing for a battle as court records show more than 20 attorneys are now representing them.
The trio of plaintiffs, all of whom were plaintiffs in the 1997 nationwide class action Avery v. State Farm, filed a federal lawsuit in May 2012 against State Farm, William Shepherd, an attorney at the insurance company, and Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL).
They accuse the defendants of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations (RICO) Act by creating an enterprise “to enable State Farm to evade payment of a $1.05 billion judgment affirmed in favor of approximately 4.7 million State Farm policyholders.”
The article is a little convoluted but worth attempting to parse, especially for those with long memories (like me) of Lloyd Karmeier's election to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2004. According to the plaintiffs in the RICO lawsuit, Karmeier's election was part of a scheme to get a lower court's judgment in Avery v. State Farm overturned, which is what ultimately happened--
The plaintiffs assert that the defendants implemented their scheme in
two phases, the first of which involved recruiting, financing and
electing a candidate to the Illinois Supreme Court who would vote to
overturn the judgment against State Farm once elected.
That phase, the suit contends, was completed when Lloyd Karmeier won
the 2004 race for the Fifth District seat on the state high court and
nine months later, voted in favor of overturning the billion-dollar
judgment against State Farm.
The suit goes on to claim that the second phase took place in 2005
and 2011, when State Farm filed alleged misrepresentations to the
Supreme Court in response to the plaintiffs’ requests for the justices
to vacate their decision overturning judgment.
The plaintiffs are represented, among others, by "Mississippi attorney Don Barrett, Tennessee attorneys W. Gordon Ball and Charles Barrett, Louisiana attorneys Patrick Pendley and Nicholas Rockforte and Alabama attorneys Tom Thrash, Steven Martino, Richard Taylor and Lloyd Copeland"--familiar names on the plaintiffs' side. The defendants are represented by "Edwardsville attorney Patrick Cloud and Chicago attorneys Joseph Cancila Jr., J. Timothy Eaton and James Gaughan," in addition to Richard O’Brien, David Greenfield, Russell Scott and Laura Oberkfell.
Related posts from the days when tort-reform issues occupied more of my blogging time (this blog has a long memory too)--
Many months ago, I was assigned to write an important appellate brief by a partner in our 760-lawyer firm who should have known better than to trust me to write it. I hate to sell myself short, but appellate briefs just aren’t my thing. Even though the deadline kept getting nearer, I couldn’t bring myself to work on it. Still, I had to look at the trial transcript each day, which was taking up space on my desk. I simply didn’t know what to do. Finally, I said good-bye to my secretary, took the elevator to the basement of my building, and revved up the engine of my car. I had decided to head west. I was going to Aspen where I planned to become a ski lift operator.