Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2003 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Lewis A. Fein

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Only in Hollywood: More than wrinkles | That famous line in "The Graduate," that prescient remark about plastics, needs updating: the same confidential disclosure of profitable information, but with a lucrative addendum — plastic surgery! For in Beverly Hills, where starlets and film executives seek a youthful appearance, there is a popular, safe and effective treatment, Botox. Or maybe the drug's success is more visible (literally and figuratively) in Hollywood precisely because of its necessity. But once a drug assumes prominence and strength trial lawyers - excessively litigious combatants - take notice.

And as a law school graduate myself, nothing embarrasses me more than the transformation of my degree into a potential lottery ticket: a waiver for ill begotten wealth against any corporation with a positive balance sheet and satisfied employees. Hence my shock and amusement - in Los Angeles, these are common emotional responses - to an only-in-Hollywood lawsuit, the declared war by some litigants against the makers of Botox.

This suit harms lawyers and further worsens an already negative image surrounding the entertainment industry. Why? Because the lawsuit's most significant individual, Irena Medavoy, wife of Mike, the powerful film producer, argues that Botox is highly dangerous. (Full disclosure: I have not used, have no need for and have never consulted a doctor about Botox. But I also firmly trust the research, clinical trials, federal supervision and overwhelmingly positive testimonials about this drug.)

What I will not accept is one person's unfortunate "illness," which is not proof of corporate negligence, as another endorsement of expensive litigation. Real lawsuits - judicial pronouncements between good and evil, between guilty defendants and innocent victims - have no *moral* relationship with this Hollywood gossip. Yet, each trial lawyer who uses a gavel as a makeshift slot machine destroys the integrity of every wrongfully fired worker, of every heroic plaintiff, of every ignored child — of every witness who takes an oath, in G-d's name and beside this nation's flag, for the pursuit of justice.

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Is justice the slogan sworn by Art Leeds, the trial lawyer fighting Botox? Is fairness his real objective, when financial incentives are so painfully clear? And with whom shall he share - upon which altar of unjust enrichment will his industry indulge - the use of panic as fact and innuendo as truth? The real force behind this and similar lawsuits is an inversion of honor's dictum: the idea that diligence and hard work are always better than deception and confrontation.

The real irony here is that the enemies of a drug that successfully removes wrinkles now choose to attack the very image of common sense. Leave aside the purpose of plastic surgery, disregard the principle of cosmetic change, and ask this profoundly simple question: If millions were not involved, would trial lawyers still cling to their confrontational habits? Lawsuits of this kind undermine the value of my professional training, and discredit the idea of legal advocacy.

Frivolous litigation certainly has an expensive cost, and I can no longer dismiss even the most outrageous claims. Hollywood's already weakened reputation suffers further insult with this kind of warfare, as if nip-and-tuck warrants judicial review. The only solution to this problem is personal responsibility, not legal motions and dubious testimony. Only then will this town regain some measure of self-respect, only then will my degree have outside acceptance.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Lewis A. Fein