The Case Against Lawyers: How the Lawyers, Politicians, and Bureaucrats Have Turned the Law into an Instrument of Tyranny -- and What We as Citizens Have to Do About It

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Overview

THE EMMY AWARD-WINNING HOST OF COURT TV'S "CATHERINE CRIER LIVE" DESCRIBES AN AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM DANGEROUSLY OUT OF CONTROL ? AND FINDS THE LAWYERS GUILTY AS CHARGED.

As a child, Catherine Crier was enchanted by film portrayals of crusading lawyers like Clarence Darrow and Atticus Finch. As a district attorney, private lawyer, and judge herself, she saw firsthand how the U.S. justice system worked ? and didn't. One of the most respected ...
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Case Against Lawyers: How the Lawyers, Politicians, and Bureaucrats Have Turned the Law into an Instrument of Tyranny -- and What We as Citizens Have to Do About It

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Overview

THE EMMY AWARD-WINNING HOST OF COURT TV'S "CATHERINE CRIER LIVE" DESCRIBES AN AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM DANGEROUSLY OUT OF CONTROL – AND FINDS THE LAWYERS GUILTY AS CHARGED.

As a child, Catherine Crier was enchanted by film portrayals of crusading lawyers like Clarence Darrow and Atticus Finch. As a district attorney, private lawyer, and judge herself, she saw firsthand how the U.S. justice system worked – and didn't. One of the most respected legal journalists and commentators today, she now confronts a profoundly unfair legal system that produces results and profits for the few – and paralysis, frustration, and injustice for the many. Alexis de Tocqueville's dire prediction in Democracy in America has come true: We Americans have ceded our responsibility as citizens to resolve the problems of society to "legal authorities" – and with it our democratic freedoms.

The Case Against Lawyers is both an angry indictment and an eloquent plea for a return to common sense. It decries a system of laws so complex even the enforcers – such as the IRS – cannot understand them. It unmasks a litigation-crazed society where billion-dollar judgments mostly line the pockets of personal injury lawyers. It deplores the stupidity of a system of liability that leads to such results as a label on a stroller that warns, “Remove child before folding.” It indicts a criminal justice system that puts minor drug offenders away for life yet allows celebrity murderers to walk free. And it excoriates the sheer corruption of the iron triangle of lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians who profit mightily from all thisinefficiency, injustice, and abuse.

The Case Against Lawyers will make readers hopping mad. And it will make them realize that the only response can be to demand change. Now.

Author Biography: Catherine Crier currently hosts “Catherine Crier Live” on Court TV. She began her television career as news anchor and talk show host at CNN, went on to win her first Emmy in 1996 for her work as a correspondent on ABC's 20/20, then hosted an issues show for the FOX News Channel. A former lawyer and judge from Dallas, Catherine resides in Westchester County with her dogs and horses.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Visiting the United States in the mid-1850s, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville feared that Americans had ceded their own decision making to a lawyer-controlled authority. Court TV's Catherine Crier thinks that the current state of American justice fulfills de Tocqueville's dire prediction. A former lawyer and judge herself, Crier marshals arguments to prove that our litigation-crazed society feeds lawyers and starves the supposed recipients of billion-dollar judgments. This powerful brief makes ideal jury duty reading.
The Los Angeles Times
[Crier's] rants about everything from personal injury law to campaign finance reform and environmental regulation (she particularly hates lawsuits against big tobacco companies) leave little doubt that she views the entire government as a rotting and tyrannical structure posing a daily threat to our liberty. — Edward Lazarus
Publishers Weekly
"You can't win, but the lawyers will": in support of this statement, former judge and Court TV personality Crier strings together anecdotes highlighting the unfairness and economic inefficiencies that lawyers have engendered in a commonsensical and sometimes shocking indictment. A self-described "inveterate newspaper clipper," Crier bases her argument on examples of legal excess. A woman who collected $450,000 after tripping in a Tucson park gopher hole illustrates how extreme civil damage awards have become. (Her lawyer contended that the city needed to "provide a safe alternative to dodging holes and caved-in tunnels.") Fear of lawsuits has led to all kinds of absurdities, like the warning on the baby stroller that reads, "Remove child before folding." Crier couples her storytelling with a folksy Texas vernacular that makes her points accessible to nonlawyers. Her contention that the legal system is broken is not new, and she acknowledges her debt to books such as Philip K. Howard's The Death of Common Sense. In her desire to convince, however, she tends to overstate her case and sometimes the law itself. When Richard Garcia sued police for not arresting him for public intoxication, thereby allowing him to get into a later car wreck, Crier writes, "We seem to expect cops to anticipate new court decisions as their behavior is critiqued after the fact." But the Supreme Court holds that government officials are immune from suit unless they violate "clearly established" rights. In her defense, however, Crier makes no pretense of presenting a balanced, scholarly book. Hers is an amusing polemic that correctly identifies many of our legal system's problems Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Crier, a former district attorney, lawyer, and judge and host of Court TV's Crier Report, here argues that "the rule of law has become a source of power and influence, not liberty and justice" and is being used by lawyers and others to the detriment of society. She sees U.S. law as often not clearly understood, fair, or reasonable and as more adversarial than truth seeking. At her best, Crier offers clear and forceful critiques of such issues as the war on drugs, the death penalty, and criminal sentencing and proposes thoughtful changes to current laws. She is at less than her best, though, on topics such as jury awards and lawyer fees in lawsuits, on suits involving disadvantaged groups, and on regulation, the revolving door, lobbyists, and campaign contributions. Here she blends considerable legitimate criticism with lengthy diatribes full of wordy examples. The content is mainly opinion, although newspapers are quoted and events, studies, and statistics cited. For a well-written and -researched book with a distinctly different view of lawyers and civil law, see Carl T. Bogus's Why Lawsuits Are Good for America. Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.]-Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs., NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641609268
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
  • Publication date: 10/8/2002
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Crier currently hosts “Catherine Crier Live” on Court TV. She began her television career as news anchor and talk show host at CNN, went on to win her first Emmy in 1996 for her work as a correspondent on ABC's 20/20, then hosted an issues show for the FOX News Channel. A former lawyer and judge from Dallas, Catherine resides in Westchester County with her dogs and horses.
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Read an Excerpt

ONE - We Love Our Rules

Sports have always been a favorite metaphor in American life. It is hard to have a conversation with an American male that doesn't include some reference to goals, yard lines, home runs, Hail Marys, you name it. I find an amazing correlation between the way we play our games and the way we live our lives.

Compare many European sporting events with American games. In soccer or rugby, the play is virtually nonstop. There is only one referee on the field. When infractions occur, the ref approximates the site of the foul, the ball is replaced, and play immediately resumes.

In American football, the field is covered with officials on top of every play. Yellow flags fly constantly. Chain markers carefully measure every inch the ball progresses. There are constant timeouts for consultation, even video review of contested plays. The rules are endless. Arguments abound and controversial calls will be examined for years. Thank God there's not a level of appeal beyond the head referee. As it is, a game with sixty playing minutes takes three times as long to finish.

But we love our rules. We think they make a game safer, fairer, and more just. If someone gets injured, it is time to sue the other player, the equipment manufacturer, or the school. If a ref makes a bad call, we need more cameras for the instant replay. We seem unwilling to accept that there will be times when chance, accident, bias, or corruption will defeat the best rules and regulations.

I say, get a life. Let's get on with the game. I find it amazing that people who profess to be so rugged, independent, and free want even our roughest sport to be predictable and safe. Therugby players I know scoff at our wimpy version of football. "Imagine," they say, "if we put those guys on our field and made them play without pads essentially nonstop for an hour. They'd all be dead!"

This is more than a metaphor. This is now the American way of life. Name one thing you did today--after rolling off that mattress (bearing the label "Do not remove under punishment of law"), showering in water with the temperature preset by a boiler manufacturer to prevent scalding, using the hairdryer that warns against electrocution in the bathtub, eating breakfast properly labeled for the allergy or calorie conscious, getting into your car as the seat-belt warning dings, then heading down the road with traffic signs and lights everywhere you turn--that isn't somehow regulated. It's hard to do.

Take a gander at ten of my favorite examples from the annual Wacky Warning Label contest sponsored by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch. Remember, these are all legitimate labels to protect you from yourself:

NUMBER TEN: The label on a handheld massager advises "Do not use while sleeping or unconscious."

NUMBER NINE: A label on a public toilet reads "Recycled flush water unsafe for drinking."

NUMBER EIGHT: A can of self-protection pepper spray warns users "May irritate eyes."

NUMBER SEVEN: No matter how slow the print out, please heed the warning on a laser printer cartridge: "Do not eat toner."

NUMBER SIX: A thirteen-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow warns "Not intended for highway use."

NUMBER FIVE: A label on prescription sleeping pills warns that they "may cause drowsiness."

NUMBER FOUR: A cardboard car sunshield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns "Do not drive with sunshield in place."

NUMBER THREE: Bicycle shin guards warn "Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover."

NUMBER TWO: A household iron warns "Never iron clothes while they are being worn" (and don't steam yourself either; I've tried).

And finally, my favorite, and 1999's big winner:

NUMBER ONE: Parents, please read the baby stroller label that cautions "Remove child before folding."

These labels are more than superfluous "information." Most are a response to some lawsuit as courts have expanded the right to be an idiot. Company lawyers, fearing liability, are madly composing such moronic disclaimers while Washington bureaucrats are codifying them as laws. These are our taxpayer dollars at work.

Once two or more people are involved, things only get worse. Whether at work, at school, or in the marketplace, everything is regulated. We have more protective employment laws on the books than ever, yet complaints are at an all-time high. (If you write it, they will sue!) Discrimination and disability rulings now cover every conceivable human variable, exacerbating our differences rather than insuring a specious "equality." Our educational process is monitored by an endless litany of rules for teaching and discipline, yet student performance is abysmal and the kids are out of control. Government regulates our nutrition and foods, while the national girth and associated health problems explode. Every aspect of workplace safety is regulated, yet the number of workplace deaths has been static for years. The safer cars get, the more auto insurers are hit for bodily injuries. Even worse, we have developed a plethora of excuses to justify the most aberrant or plainly stupid behavior. Speed down an icy roadway without your seat belt and relatives still can sue the automaker and hospital when you crash and burn. There is no personal responsibility for asinine conduct.

Litigation is no longer a crapshoot, it is becoming a sure thing. If you can't get a satisfactory nuisance settlement, then try your case; the awards are phenomenal! Human life is now quantified in astronomical terms. In 1999 the ten biggest jury awards to individual plaintiffs totaled almost $9 billion--three times the amount in 1998. One verdict delivered $1.2 billion to the family of thirty-two-year-old Jennifer Cowart. She died of burn injuries after a go-cart accident at an amusement park apparently due to a defective gas cap. The accident was horrific to be sure, but $1.2 billion?

Many of these huge verdicts are reduced on appeal, but it wasn't until 1996 that the U.S. Supreme Court first overturned any punitive damage award for being excessive. The case was against BMW of North America. A fellow bought a new car in 1990 only to discover months later that its surface had been damaged and refinished before sale. The automaker's policy at the time was not to reveal repairs that were less than 3 percent of a car's retail price. In this case, the resurfacing cost $601. The jury, however, awarded $4,000 in compensatory damages and $4 million as punishment for the practice. The Alabama appeals court kindly cut the punitive award to $2 million.

BMW appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens found the "damage" to the car had no effect on its performance, safety, or appearance. He then ruled that there should be some fair ratio between the actual and punitive damages. Even at the reduced rate of $2 million, this sum was still 500 times the so-called damage to the car. The case was sent back to the lower court for review with this admonishment: "We are not prepared to draw a bright line marking the limits of a constitutionally acceptable punitive damage award . . . however, we are fully convinced that the grossly excessive award in this case transcends the constitutional limit." (I guess it's sort of like pornography. You know it when you see it.) Ultimately the punitive award was cut to $50,000.

By 2000 these sums were merely peanuts. One fifty-seven-year-old smoker who testified (with a straight face) that he didn't know the dangers of smoking until 1994 was awarded $3 billion against Philip Morris. Upon judicial review, smoker Richard Boeken saw his $3 billion fizzle to a mere $100 million. In March 2002 a jury awarded $150 million to the estate of Michele Schwartz after finding that a tobacco company falsely represented low-tar cigarettes as less dangerous than regular cigarettes. Although Philip Morris argued the company only promised the brands were "milder," the plaintiffs asserted that Schwartz had switched from regular cigarettes because she believed the low-tar version would be better for her health. By the way, Schwartz worked for years for her husband, who just happened to be a doctor. I'm no fan of cigarette manufacturers, but people have certainly known since 1964 when the Surgeon General slapped a warning on smokes that this was a ba-a-ad habit.

In 2000 the $246 billion settlement of state tobacco suits toppled the scales. It has been called the largest redistribution of wealth to the smallest number of people in the history of the world. This payout does not refer to the monies awarded to the sick but the billions that went to a cluster of attorneys for their work on the cases. As much as I hate the product, the lawsuits are ridiculous. We have known for almost forty years what smoking does to the body. Quitting is hard, but we tell illegal drug users to stop or go to prison. Cigarette addicts get money instead! Tobacco litigation has opened the floodgates for creative lawyers now targeting the gun industry. HMOs, nursing homes, and paint companies are on their radar screens. Get ready for the alcohol and fatty foods litigation. It is coming.

This type of litigation has also put dreams of riches into the minds of governors and attorneys general around the country. An incestuous relationship between these officials and private attorneys is growing. Here's how it works. The government decides to attack some "dangerous" industry to protect its citizens. Instead of calling on lawyers already on the state payroll, the officials hire big outside firms--often the same firms that are major contributors to the political campaigns that put and keep the officials in office. These state executives get bragging rights with the voters for lawsuit awards that pump up the general revenue fund, the private attorneys get huge contingency fees, and often some of those fees recycle right back into the campaign coffers for the next election.

But as long as the appellate courts are reducing most excessive verdicts, is there a problem? Yes. These remittances coming long after the awards make headlines do not correct the broader damage to our justice system. Back in 1998 Mark E. Dapier, general counsel to Mercury Finance Company, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about these other effects. His company had been sued for "fraudulent suppression" of material information to a consumer. Mercury sold a car loan at a discount to a subsidiary that would collect on the note (a very common practice). When the original car buyer defaulted on the $6,000 note, he sued Mercury, alleging that the failure to reveal this discount was fraud. The initial jury found $90,000 in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages in a case where the plaintiff suffered no harm!

While the trial judge ultimately reduced the punitive award to $2 million, the defendant's headaches were far from over. When the initial verdict was reported, more suits, some as class actions, cropped up in other states. The original plaintiff's attorney immediately filed nine more identical suits. Fearing more huge awards, Mercury settled many of these cases. Others went through protracted litigation and appeals. Finally, after Mercury obtained several state and federal court rulings that this discounting practice was perfectly legal, the suits stopped. Of course, no one compensated the company for the millions it had spent on legal fees and settlements or the enormous amount of time and energy it had devoted to dozens of lawsuits.

Insurance companies don't wait for any rebate before upping their fees. In 1999 the Oregon Supreme Court refused to put a $500,000 cap on pain and suffering awards in malpractice cases. Almost immediately, juries came back with three multimillion-dollar awards. Insurance rates went up. Mississippi's Hattiesburg American reported in 2002 that a group of emergency doctors "paid $140,000 for malpractice insurance" two years ago. "Last year, the premium went to $250,000." Doctors have been warned that "the next annual premium would be $437,500 or $475,000." An Associated Press article in March reported the immediate result. "The Mississippi Trauma Advisory Committee has suspended re-inspection of its hospitals for a year to give health officials time to address the growing problem of surgeons leaving the system." The hospitals are losing so many specialists that they cannot meet state trauma standards, so the enforcement agency must simply look the other way. "We're in a crisis," said State Health Officer Ed Thompson. This development is being replicated across the country.

Damages for pain and suffering are also soaring, as is our expectation of large payoffs for every tragedy that befalls us. These sums are rarely reduced on appeal. In a U.S. News and World Report piece entitled "How Lawyers Abuse the System," the authors discussed various trial tactics designed to elicit the most melodramatic statements possible. Using the power of suggestion, one attorney asked his client, "Did a false arrest and imprisonment bring back memories of the Holocaust?" People who merely witness an event will line up to recover.

After the terror attack of September 11, the government made a determination, whether right or wrong, that it was necessary to protect the airlines from repeated lawsuits. While we may be able to survive without asbestos or lead paint companies, bankrupting the airlines to satisfy thousands of judgments would not be in the best interests of the nation. Unfortunately, that big-picture consideration has never stopped attorneys and their clients before, so the government legislated limits on those industry suits while trying to fairly compensate victims and their families with taxpayer dollars.

As politically incorrect as this may seem, the families from September 11 who object to the government fund that specifies a set $250,000 in emotional damages and $50,000 for each additional survivor need to ask themselves: Just what would compensate for the psychic loss? If you can name any number, you're way ahead of me. In a February Time magazine piece in 2002, one family objected to these sums by saying "Have you ever seen a twelve-year-old have a nervous breakdown?" Therapy would be covered under actual damages so again, my question is "How much cash will make the pain better?" because for most people, no amount of money will excise the hurt. The sad truth is that thousands of people are killed every year in myriad tragedies, from accidents, to crimes, to terrorist horrors. The shooting victim's family rarely recovers from the robber's attack. The suicide doesn't leave his or her loved ones much room to recover. Which victim is worth hundreds of thousands for suffering relatives and which one is worth absolutely nothing . . . and why?

Moving on, plaintiffs no longer have to show any actual damage to be included in class action suits. One example is the asbestos litigation, where the courts have expanded the right to sue to the point that plaintiffs with only a "likelihood" of becoming ill are collecting. You've heard the commercials: "If you have ever been exposed [not necessarily made ill by] to X, Y or Z call now!" Many people truly suffering from asbestos exposure may never recover a dime as company after company goes belly up paying plaintiffs with no apparent injury. It is interesting to note that plaintiffs' lawyers are now recognizing the need to keep these companies on life support. They try to pace their attacks and awards against certain industries so that they don't destroy them completely. If you hear a plaintiff's lawyer say "We're going to put big tobacco or gun companies out of business," that's just for show. Since there is no notion of double jeopardy in these civil actions, the attorneys can return to feed on these defendants as long as they remain financially viable.

Copyright 2002 by Catherine Crier of Court TV
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Interviews & Essays

DISORDER IN THE COURT?
Court TV's Catherine Crier and The Case Against Lawyers

Barnes & Noble.com: What made you want to write this book?

Catherine Crier: I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was a little girl. And after practicing in the criminal and civil areas, including on the bench, and reporting on this for 14 years now, I decided to speak out because I think the law and lawyers have gone off in the wrong direction, to the detriment of the American people and our democracy itself.

B&N.com: Have you faced criticism from your fellow lawyers?

CC: What I have been most interested in, truthfully, is the number of lawyers and judges -- both federal and state -- who have emailed or called and said, "You know, you say a lot of things that we have always known but just couldn't say." I think there are an awful lot of people who went into the profession with noble intentions, as I did, of guarding the Constitution and Bill of Rights, or preserving the rule of law, and they have found a very different job at hand and are truly frustrated and disillusioned. I may be speaking for a lot more lawyers than people realize.

B&N.com: You dedicate the book to Henry Drummond and Atticus Finch. Could you tell our readers who they are and why you feel as strongly about them as you do?

CC: My two heroes -- and unfortunately I had to reach into the world of fiction to grab both of them. Atticus Finch was the character in To Kill a Mockingbird played by Gregory Peck. This is a character who gave law to many young people, that inspired them to pursue a career in the law. The other character, Henry Drummond, is the lead played by Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind. Now, that was based upon the real Scopes Monkey Trial, the trial over creationism vs. evolution, but it was obviously fictionalized a bit for the film. Again, this was one of those wonderfully noble lawyers taking on what seemed to be a lost cause and changing society for the better as a result. These two great noble lawyers led me to believe that this was an extraordinary profession that could help and not hurt.

B&N.com: Could you tell us a little about yourself? Where you are from, how you became a lawyer, and how you rose so fast in the profession?

CC: I always wanted to be a lawyer. There had been no lawyers in my family. Mother used to say I would argue with the post, and she said I would have to find a profession that would pay me to do that, but who knows why you find a calling early. I was very lucky because at four, five years old, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. There was always the sense of trying to fight for justice. Even in arguments in our family, there was always that sense of "What was the just thing to do?" I am from Dallas, and wonderfully the Texas spirit is one of independence, of doing whatever you are big enough to do.

My parents, from the time I was little, said "You want to be a lawyer, go for it." There was never anything like "Girls don't do these kind of things." I went off to the University of Texas at 16 and the University of Texas Law School at 20 and first wanted to go into international law, because my background had all been politics and international affairs. I made the mistake of hanging around at the courthouse and fell in love with litigation and went to work for the D.A.'s office as soon as I graduated. So I was practicing law at 23 and became a felony chief prosecutor trying rapes, robberies, and murders. And then I went over to the really dangerous side of the hall where they fight over money and was elected to a civil bench on my 30th birthday in 1984.

B&N.com: What made you leave the profession for television?

CC: I actually was at a crossroads where I had been approached about the court of appeals or possibly the federal bench. But I also had been approached about possibly running for one of the congressional districts in Dallas or for [Texas state] attorney general, and so I had a lot of conversations going on in my head at that time. Then I was approached by a fellow who had been a former recruiter for CBS News, and he asked me if I was interested in doing a political issues show. This was right after my reelection in 1988, and I said I could take a joke with the best of them, but we ended up making a tape about six weeks later, on Valentine's Day, 1989, and a month later I was doing a pilot for several different news organizations, and six months later I was offered the Evening News with Bernie Shaw at CNN. So I stepped down from the bench, and six weeks later I was in Atlanta.

First, it was the Evening News, which started October 16th, and October 17th was the San Francisco earthquake, and for me things haven't stopped shaking since. I went from Evening News to also doing Inside Politics to also doing Crier and Company, which was modeled after Nightline but primarily for women. It was a show that was one of the first to bring a lot of the women experts and politicians onto the air. And we watched as other news programs began to steal them, and I would like to think that CNN and this program made a major contribution in having more women on the air in all forms of programming.

B&N.com: Back to the book, you speak about the corruption of the system, the corruption of lawyers and politicians being intertwined. Could you elaborate on that, please, and give some examples.

CC: Lawyers nowadays are partners in almost all civil litigation, because they handle them through contingency fees. Contingency fees were supposed to help the poor hire counsel by giving away a percentage of any recovery, but now in the mass tort litigation, the tobacco cases, for example, they are partners. What do partners want? Partners want to maximize profits. They don't necessarily want to do the right thing, the appropriate thing; they want the biggest reward for their investment. We're seeing a lot of injustices, I believe, and certainly a misuse of the court system, because this is more a business venture for a lot of lawyers than it is pursuing justice.

When you go to Capitol Hill, I find it very disconcerting that law is being created, manipulated, and selectively enforced on behalf of sometimes very big contributors. I submit that the tax code is the greatest form of corruption on Capitol Hill in terms of giveaways. The reason it is 36,000 pages long is because it is so full of subsidies and tax breaks and special provisions for contributors and industries and corporations that we cannot find our way around the code. No one, including IRS agents, has any idea what it says, because they have tucked away so many hidden provisions. The revolving door between lobbyists and legislators, allowing individuals to work for a big lobbying firm, industries, and corporations, and then a few years later they are right back in a government office writing laws, sitting with a congressman or sitting in a cabinet position, and only a year after they serve the government, they can go right back to making big dollars. So, what you are doing is seeing law used in what I would consider almost a fraudulent manner.

B&N.com: You are critical of the Americans with Disabilities Act and even more so about public education today. Why is that?

CC: The Americans with Disabilities Act was intended to help Americans with physical handicaps so they could have a fair place at the starting line, equal opportunity. And many of the provisions were quite appropriate to make sure that they had ingress and egress in buildings and elevator buttons could be read by those that were legally blind, these sorts of things. All of a sudden, we have created categories so that one statistician says that 374 percent of the population is covered by some disability. You are to the point where honest employers cannot possibly operate. I give an example in the book. You hire a young African American, a 40-year-old Asian woman with a bad back, a blind Hispanic, and a white guy over 55. On the same day, they are all qualified. You have to fire somebody -- whom are you going to fire and justify it for me? How are you going to keep out of court? The law was never intended to put people in such a box, and the same thing has occurred in the classroom. There are administrators that cannot fire teachers.

The quote "due process" is so long and convoluted in New York City -- the example being 60 hearings to simply suspend a single teacher. Administrators do not have the time or energy to do it, and don't. So we are stuck with bad teachers oftentimes when what we ought to be doing is giving teachers merit pay and encouraging them as the professionals many are and should be. On the other hand, teachers cannot discipline in the classroom because of student rights now. You can appeal the notion of detention, and you can appeal suspensions to the point where teachers cannot discipline.

B&N.com: How have things gotten so out of hand? How did this bureaucratic nightmare, aided and abetted by lawyers, as you claim, take hold? Or, to put it in the language you use in the book, has the law, designed to protect the people of the United States, become as tyrannical as any king?

CC: Absolutely. King George could say, "You don't pay the tax because you are my friend, but everybody else does." And we said, "No, no, we're going to have the rule of law, where these broad regulations and rules govern the American people with justice and with equity." The way we were to insure that was citizen involvement, to tell our representatives what sort of things we needed regulated and needed rules on, so that everybody would play fair. But once we got out of the game of democracy, which is a serious contact sport in this country, we created a vacuum, and into that vacuum comes the government and those with obvious authority, and the lawyers are at the top of the list. Alexis de Tocqueville told us in 1840 that the lawyers would take over the government. So what do you do then? You can write laws that benefit those that you like and oppose those that you don't like, just like King George.

It really got started in the 1940s when FDR threatened to pack the Supreme Court so that they would declare his legislation constitutional -- the New Deal legislation. And what he had them do basically was to rewrite the General Welfare clause [of the Constitution] which meant not what Jefferson said: that Congress could only pass laws that benefit the general welfare of the country, not specific groups here and there. But FDR made them flip and had them say, "They can pass laws for anybody they need to pass laws for." And what does that equal: pork barrel politics. That means I can write a law for you, thanks to your contribution, and I have no constitutional prohibition. Our Supreme Court basically flipped the Constitution in the mid-1940s. That is when a lot of this stuff started. The pork barrel politics, the selling of law, really grew from that point when the legislature got the fact that that was the biggest source of power that they had. People have to understand there is a political element to the law.

B&N.com: You are searing in your criticism of liability law when you point out the absurdities of judicial decisions granting large awards. You also talk about defensive actions by companies going to extra lengths to avoid being sued. What's specifically wrong with liability law, and what are some of these companies doing to protect themselves?

CC: Liability law serves a good purpose. There are many cases where the consumer and the American people have been protected because of these laws and the emergence of these laws. But when they go too far, it's like any pendulum, you find that you are killing the golden goose, I guess, taking away the very incentives and creativity of this country because people are so afraid of taking a chance with a product, with a service that they are going to be liable that you actually see the limiting of development in this country in many respects. Beyond that, you've got an enormous litigation tax on goods and services that is sort of built into the product because they know they are going to be sued or they are passing on those costs from all of those previous lawsuits -- so we are paying for all of this. Then we socially are paying for all of this when our playgrounds are disappearing or our kids can't go out to recess because the schools are afraid of liability. We all of a sudden don't realize that we are losing choices in our lives. We can't even make the choice to assume the risk and do something that might be a little dangerous or fun because people are so afraid. I can't let friends come to my house and go horseback riding. I don't care how good they say they are, because I cannot face the potential liability if they fall off one of my horses. I can't do it. But, thank you lawyers. I am in that box with a lot of other people. Where is the justice in some person or company which may be 1 percent responsible but is the only one with money, having to pay the entire judgment in the lawsuit? How in the world can we define that as justice? It is not. But that is the direction the world has gone...

B&N.com: You also criticize the regulatory agencies in Washington like the EPA, OSHA, and USDA. What irks you about them?

CC: The ideas are brilliant. But I ask, "What's the goal?" "Are the regulations of the laws designed to accomplish that goal and how are we doing?" You look at OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), it's supposed to protect the safety and health of workers. Tell me why they need to regulate the size of a warning bell on a boat or specifically the wood content of a ladder. Or the poor construction owner who had these welders' masks about 75 feet away in a trailer from where the welders were working. And the OSHA inspector comes in and writes a ticket because they weren't close enough for him. Now, the welders knew where they were, no problem. "No," the guy said, "having the masks in a trailer 75 feet from where the welders work is not close enough." So, when he left, the owner put a small sign on his door that said, "If you think OSHA is a small town in Kansas, you are mistaken," which is brilliant.

What we find is that OSHA is issuing more tickets -- violations -- for paperwork, bad paperwork, than for the types of things that could actually cause injuries. You will find the same thing with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). If your paperwork is in order, you are likely to pass; if not, you are likely to fail, no matter what is going on in the job site or the meat plant itself. It's all process over substance in the regulatory agencies. It's absolutely nuts. EPA is so valuable, it's so important, but why are they wasting their time chasing their tails? Or depending on the administration, they are apt to say one thing in a Republican administration and apt to say something else in a Democratic administration. So, they are keeping their finger in the wind, wanting to keep their jobs, and we are not getting a straight job from one of these agencies, we're getting a political response. That again, is the political manipulation of the law.

B&N.com: Do you see any solution to this major problem in our society? You put the ultimate onus on the average American citizen. What is he or she to do to solve the problem of excess litigation?

CC: I actually call complaining the coward's way out. But I thought, no, no, you have to stick your neck out and offer some solutions. So I have some very specific things that we can do, pass, and repeal for criminal, civil, and regulatory and political problems. Finally, it comes down to the American people because we are the ones that still have the power to make these sorts of changes if we use it. And that is the power of the ballot box, some activism. That doesn't mean that we have to march on Washington, it simply means that we have to decide the things that are disturbing us, what is costing us socially and economically, and take stands on them and let politicians know that we will vote on these issues.

Time and again, I cite these examples in the book. We step up to the plate at important moments and demonstrate overnight the ability to shake the political tree. But if we don't do this, we deserve what we settled for. We tell ourselves we are disillusioned, disaffected, and that voting is simply the selection of the lesser of two evils, so we sit on the sidelines and we just ensure that the vacuum that de Tocqueville warned us of will continue and will be filled by the legislators, the lobbyists, and the lawyers, to the detriment of the American people.

B&N.com: Do you have plans for another book?

CC: I have another book coming out next year on the trials that changed our lives -- significant trials of the 20th century. Most of these will be Supreme Court decisions. It doesn't just tell us about the case but also discusses its place in historical context. And I am working on the follow-up to The Case Against Lawyers, which I hope to have out before the elections in 2004. The working title is But It Is All Perfectly Legal, and it is a discussion of all of these things that are legal in our system but are absolutely outrageous when you examine the context.

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