Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2001 / 6 Kislev, 5762

Drs. Michael A.Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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War-profiteers bearing legal briefs -- THE weeks since 9/11 have been a time of great heroism and unity. They have also been a time for certain groups and persons to disgrace themselves. The professional America-haters; the Blame America First crowd; and an attention-craving ex-president. But now comes a new and in some ways even uglier disgrace. The war-profiteers.

No, we're not talking about defense contractors: the "military-industrial complex" that, as Ronald Reagan pointed out, turns into the "arsenal of democracy" whenever we have a war. We're talking about something far more intolerable and unaffordable.

The trial lawyers.

In a September 28 column we asked, "Can the legal leopards change their spots?" At the time, we had reason to hope that they might. On Wednesday September 12 -- one day after the terrorist attacks -- Leo V. Boyle, President of the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA) in Washington, DC, announced that the association had asked its members to declare a moratorium on World Trade Center and Pentagon-related lawsuits.

Boyle announced that the ATLA would organize the efforts of members to volunteer their services pro bono on behalf of victims seeking compensation from the Victims' Compensation Fund. Every member of ATLA's Executive Committee volunteered to be a pro bono counsel. The ATLA stated that one-hundred percent of this money should directly benefit the survivors and families and to help those who were widowed or orphaned by the destruction.

We hoped this was a sincere gesture and not a public relations strategy. Since then, the words of the ATLA have grown progressively more hollow:

  • The "pro bono" services really meant only the free initial consultation. After that it costs plenty. What about class action suits and contingency fees out of the public eye?

  • The 30 day moratorium was essentially meaningless as federal law already provides for a 45 day period following disasters before lawyers can legally besiege affected families. This was designed to keep 60,000 trial lawyers from prematurely soliciting business from grieving families.

  • The bailout bill following 9/11 was delayed following a call from Tom Daschle to the White House at 11:30 PM. the night before the Senate vote. It seems the bill would not pass Congress unless the 25 percent limit on lawyer fees was deleted. We suspect lawyer contributors let him know they wanted a bigger piece of the windfall cash pie. So much for patriotism and compassion if there's a risk of limiting their income.

  • William Glaberson's November 11, 2001 New York Times article is titled "THE LAWSUIT - Lawyer Math in Sept.11 Deaths Shows Varying Values for a Life." Glaberson writes "The lawyers are asking uncomfortable questions. How much did the dead man make? Was the death fast or slow? Were the passengers terrorized by seeing flight attendants stabbed? How hot was the fire? ....Intangible things, like the suffering before an inescapable death, are given a price tag."

  • And then there are the politically-motivated suits. As on Internet pundit noted recently, we'd better expect "a whole new litigation racket to clog the courts" - suits organized by radical Islamists. Better not say anything insensitive about the people who would love to kill you. You might get sued.

Donna Knifsend, Esq., CEO of Lawsuit Prevention and Management and an active member of Orange County Citizens Against Law Suit Abuse(OCCALA) is embarrassed by the behavior of her peers. Knifson notes that in a recent survey 76 percent of attorneys do not want their children to grow up to be lawyers. Many are leaving to take lower paying jobs that are more respectable. Maybe there's a reason they get no respect!

Let us make it very clear that we are not against all lawsuits; we acknowledge that some are legitimate and necessary.

But sadly, we must conclude that the legal leopards didn't change their spots after all. When we needed them most to be part of the solution to our national survival they once again choose to be part of the problem.

However, there may be hope . . . for us if not for them. Bill O'Reilly has been riding herd on the charities that raised money for the 9/11 victims, forcing them to deliver as promised. Would that Mr. O'Reilly and lots of others in the media perform a similar service regarding the ATLA. Whatever they do, however much they make . . . reveal and publicize to the max.

Let's not allow America be hurt further by these ugly war-profiteers.

Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., of Newport Beach, Calif., writes on medical, legal, disability and mental health reform. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., of Aberdeen, Wash., is president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists who write numerous commentaries and articles for newspapers, newsletters, magazines and journals nationally and internationally. Comment by clicking here.


11/16/01: Do we need 'Super Smallpox Saturdays'?
11/09/01: Why the post-9-11 health care debate will never be the same
11/01/01: Common sense good for our mental health
10/26/01: Your right to medical privacy --- even in terror time
10/12/01: Failed immigration policy ultimately bad for nation's mental health: Enemy within leads to epidemic of jumpy nerves
09/28/01: Can legal leopards change their spots: A treat instead of a trick
09/21/01: Civil defense again a civic duty
08/30/01: Shut down this government CAFE
08/23/01: School Bells or Jail Cells?
08/15/01: Time to take coaches to the woodshed
08/10/01: Blood, Guts & Glory: The Stem of the Stem Cell controversy

© 2001, Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak