Legal Ethics and Reform

The False Idea that All Injuries Must be Compensated

Philip Howard, a highly regarded New York City lawyer, has written a book entitled Life Without Lawyers in which he proposes a way to get rid of perhaps 75% of America’s lawyers.

He proposes that all civil cases be pre-screened by a judge to determine if they are in anyway reasonable. The judge would have to power to dismiss cases before they went very far. He advocates one additional feature. The existence of the case would be kept secret till after it is reviewed and certified as “ok to go forward” by the judge. Some charges are incendiary, a defendant could be greatly damaged by the media merely reporting that a suit was filed. (e.g. a priest or teacher accused of child molestation). Plaintiff lawyers know this and threaten cases knowing they could never prevail at trial, but also knowing the defendant will have to settle to keep the charge from getting into the press.

Additionally Howard believes that many products (e.g. teeter totters in public parks) have been run into oblivion because of threatened lawsuits. He believes many of these products would come back into use.

He also holds that people with authority over others (e.g. teachers) need to regain control over their surroundings without being second guessed by lawyers after the fact.

The 75% reduction in the number of lawyers is a “guesstimate “ but probably pretty close. Consider all the lawyers that currently prepare defenses against these frivolous lawsuits. Consider all the lawyers that advise people who develope products for use in the home or by children. Consider all the lawyers that advise public agencies, not for profit agencies and religious agencies about how employees should act when dealing with children, the handicapped, the elderly, the sick etc. Today people can’t depend upon their own good sense, informed by their education, but must constantly refer to detail guidance provided by lawyers. Not all lawyers will be put out of work but a good proportion will.

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