How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Sean S

“The sugar will be replaced with a synthetic carrot powder. It’s not as tasty as sugar, but it’s a much more healthy choice.”

Im glad that was explained. I was always under the impression that carrot powder was in fact just as tasty as sugar.


Well, it may serve another useful end - that of protecting children. Pedophiles are much less likely to be attracted to children peddling synthetic carrot powder-based cookies. In fact, it may be akin to garlic cloves and Dracula's ilk...

David Giacalone

The jury is out as to whether lawyers (other than Evan) are entertaining, but our legal system definitely is -- it's impossible to tell satire and farce from reality.


David: Surely you didn't think the Girl Scouts were going to replace the sugar in their cookies with carrot powder? I don't think you did, but I understand your point. There are a lot of websites, weblogs and newspapers that can be easily parodied, but it would be very hard to parody one law-related weblog that often reads like a parody already, given the bizarre nature of some of its entries. I'm talking about overlawyered, of course, the authors of which favor the bizarre over the ordinary, since it helps them make their point. (There's a post in there somewhere if one of us can figure a way to get it out.)

David Giacalone

I knew this was parody (really), but I did follow your TrackBack to the WILT weblog and discovered that the law-student hopeful proprietor notes "I'm not sure whether this is a farce or not (as there is no source in his post), but the concept is interesting". That reminds me of yesterday's De Novo symposium, which raised the issue of whether one can teach common sense.

However, I'm too lazy to check out whether WILT itslef specializes in parody. I believe (but am also too lazy to verify) that carrot paste is nearly 100% sucrose, so it could probably substitute just fine for sugar, except for a possible texture issue.

Ryan Jensen

I wouldn't say I "specialize" in parody by any means, but it was definitely present in that post. Teach common sense? I hope that was a general observation, and not meant about me ...

I didn't mean that using carrot powder as a substitute for sugar was an interesting concept, but rather that the Girl Scouts would do something so absurd to highlight problems with the current tort system. THAT is interesting, and hopefully what some organization will do in the near future.


Ryan: You commented that if the Girl Scouts would do something so absurd as suggested in my post, it would "highlight problems with the current tort system." The point I was trying to make (which I admit may have been easy to miss) was that if the Girl Scouts did something so absurd as suggested in my post, it would highlight the problems with the current tort reform lobby, which I think broadcasts incomplete, exaggerated and untruthful messages about the country's legal system in an attempt to scare blameless companies into doing absurd things.

Get it? If not, it's my fault. I'm planning to do something more to-the-point about overlawyered (to which I linked in the post)--something along the lines of "Why I link to overlawyered on my site's blogroll, though I disagree with its message."

Ryan Jensen

I don't think tort reformists need to spread propoganda about the absurdity of lawsuits these days, especially when Professor Banzhaf does it quite nicely himself (http://www.law.gwu.edu/faculty/profile.asp?ID=1759). This lack of belief in personal responsibility leads inevitably to more and more lawsuits attacking blameless companies, so long as some continue winning in the courts.

If the non-tort reform lobby would show cases in which these ridiculous lawsuits lose or are overturned on appeal, I would be more than happy to consider them on level ground with the current information available. Until then, the only impression anyone outside the tort system can have is that it is broken.


Ryan: Prof. Banzhaf's credentials include his involvement in the lawsuits against the tobacco industry: "Professor Banzhaf and ASH have played a major role in the war on smoking and for nonsmokers' rights, including promoting and helping to mastermind law suits against the tobacco industry." He's now spreading propaganda about the absurdity of lawsuits?

Anyway, most absurd lawsuits don't make it very far; just far enough, it often turns out, to make an appearance on overlawyered. Case in point: the class action lawsuit against Janet Jackson, which lasted just a couple weeks. (I wrote about that one here.) Another example: the man who threatened to sue Charter because he was addicted to cable TV. That's a lawsuit that never even happened, but it didn't stop everyone from using it as example of the U.S. legal system gone crazy. (I wrote about that one here too.)

I don't think the legal system is broke. I think the tort reform lobby and the big business lobby have a lot of people incorrectly thinking it's broke. For more, read the post on this site called "The Cynic Incubators." (But also read the "disclaimer" that's linked in the right column.)

As for "personal responsibility," what about corporate responsibility? Do you think that a phone company should be held accountable if it violates consumer fraud statutes?; or a drug company if it puts drugs on the market without telling its customers that a certain percentage of them will die from using the drugs?; or a bank that deliberately reorders its customers' checks from largest to smallest to make sure the greatest number bounce? I don't know about you, but some of these things sort of tick me off, and I could give you a hundred examples. (Stopping now before this rant turns into a rage . . . )

Ryan Jensen

Evan, I certainly don't want to bring you into a rage. All those things you mentioned are deplorable and deserve to bring lawsuits against the companies perpetrating those acts (except maybe re-ordering checks, that seems perfectly legitimate to me -- if you don't like the practice, change to a bank that does not do it).

However, I don't believe that fast food establishments should be liable for their overweight customers, who know full well that eating McDonald's every day will lead to obesity. That is Banzhaf's propoganda ("five successful fat lawsuits" that turned into "only one obesity lawsuit, and it was dismissed by a federal judge" when testifying before Congress). He claims that fast food restaurants should be running scared from his lawsuits, which they are. This is why I wonder where personal responsibility went, and an individual's lack of personal responsibility ticks me off.

I think what the tort non-reformists need to do, if they wish to counter the propoganda from Overlawyered and others, is to do more of what you've done above: point out the system's successes and explain its failures in the best light possible (if you feel there are any failures).


1. Back in my college days, I wrote a piece for a campus magazine purporting to be the secret history of a riflery club that had just started, detailing their often-fatal rivalry with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, their ties to Angolan mercenaries, and their multiple assassination attempts of the Dean of Student Affairs. Anyway, I had a student come up to me and complain how much I had scared her needlessly, so I empathize with Evan that one of his trackbacks appears to have failed to get the joke.

2. Of course, the joke isn't that far off from the truth. The obesity lawsuits are generating a number of expensive conferences, and there are clearly numerous lawyers out there speculating that they have a future doing this. And there's defensive restauranting going on: I'd love to see the internal fast-food restaurant reports on how much all these new menu roll-outs of healthy food no one wants to buy is costing them. All in the hopes that it will inoculate them against Banzhafian lawsuits in 2020. The tobacco lawsuits and gun lawsuits were laughingstocks when they started, and now it seems to be socially accepted for smokers to recover because they didn't have the willpower to quit smoking. The McDonald's coffee lawsuit verdict was correctly viewed as ludicrous when it happened, and only ten years later, there's a generation of law students ready to rationalize it.

3. Anyway, Walter's piece on the Girl Scouts was noting merely that fear of premises liability was a contributing cause to the disappearance of a longstanding tradition of Girl Scouts selling cookies. Do you dispute this?

4. The Super Bowl class action lawsuit was ridiculous, but, procedurally, not much more so than the one pending in front of the Illinois Supreme Court that almost bankrupted Altria. The Charter lawsuit never happened, but it is a telling example of how deeply permeated our culture has become with litigation as an answer.


Ted: If I haven't said it before, you are always welcome here at the Legal Underground. Not only are you wise and articulate, but you're easily capable of ratcheting up the level of the discussion a notch or two, until this blog is making that nice whirring noise common to all blogs with good mojo. (I hear it at overlawyered all the time.) So please feel free to return here often, unless it turns out that you're making me look stupid by comparison, in which case I'd rather you just stay away. I'll leave it up to you to decide how I'm doing.

As for obesity lawsuits, I'm not interested, as I've said here before. You and plaintiffs' lawyers who weigh more than me can fight that battle. Turning to the Girl Scouts, I'm actually waiting for Walter to show up here too (I did put him on my defense team, after all) so that I can debate with him in person, but I assume you have his proxy. In my part of the country, Girl Scouts don't sell cookies out in front of businesses, and I don't think they should. They should sell them door to door. The woman quoted in Walter's post said, "Girls can't go door to door without an adult these days," but I don't think that's a liability issue. That's a "kids can't be alone these days anymore" issue.

Anyway, the Girl Scouts are doing fine. My daughter sold me twelve boxes this year, and a girl in her troop sold a thousand boxes, which I heard about from her Dad more than several times. (Next year, I think I'll be giving him Walter Olson's number. And yours too, of course.)


I stumbled upon this site as I was in the process of doing some online research. Okay, I admit it; this was pretty darn funny. Imagine the uproar if all Girl Scout cookies really did end up tasting like carrots!

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