Trial Lawyers

April 14, 2014

Some Republicans tried to justify their vote against equal pay for women by saying that to pass the law would be to “line the pockets of trial lawyers.” That’s a very revealing explanation. 

If corporations did not discriminate against women, then there would be no lawsuits … period. A case without any evidence would get thrown out in an instant. Discrimination exists when the perpetrators can get away with it. Without the ability of an individual to file a lawsuit, no corporation would have an incentive to follow the law. Republicans want you to believe that corporations will voluntarily not discriminate anymore, and refuse to allow the ability of anyone to discover if any discrimination exists. 

The use of “trial lawyers” is a popular rhetorical tool of Republicans, but the equal pay law and the GM recalls of their cars with fatal defects are good examples of what we do as trial lawyers. GM knew about the defects years ago — before many people were killed because of them. GM did nothing to protect lives. They protected themselves, or rather their profits. The government agency charged with identifying those safety hazards didn’t discover the defects because (apparently) the deaths of dozens of people was below their radar. So much for over-regulation. 

It was a trial lawyer taking depositions in a lawsuit that not only uncovered the defect in GM cars, but also the cover-up of the defect. Thanks to a trial lawyer, lives will be saved and justice can be done for the victims. It is a textbook example of how trial lawyers protect society and your rights. This offends Republicans. 

Republicans want to argue that there are already laws against discrimination, but they want to make it impossible to discover the discrimination, nearly impossible to get a day in court and impose government limits on the amount of money anyone could recover no matter what the evidence is. As a person who has devoted his life to helping defend the rights of individuals against the wealthy and powerful, I understand why the right wing nuts attack my profession. We are the last resort of people like you when the powerful victimize. 

 

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Trials: Every Verdict Tells a Story

March 13, 2014

I am in the process of trying a case in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of a little girl who was forced to be born in a jail cell because her mother was imprisoned and denied necessary medical care by a local hospital. As I was taking the drive to court this morning I heard a radio report of a hunger strike among prisoners in California protesting that state’s practice of condemning large number of prisoners to solitary confinement. That state already is under a court order to relieve massive overcrowding. I wonder how it is that we have become a country that imprisons more people than any other nation in the world.  

In Michigan, one of the largest segments of employment, especially in the Upper Peninsula, is corrections. In a state with more prisons than some countries have, more prisons are being built. If one were to base a guess on what is happening with the prison system based on who is there, one could say that our country has decided to imprison African-American males as a social policy, and the mentally ill, and non-violent drug users. 

Violent crime is at an historic low, yet our prison population is at an historic high. I wonder if imprisonment has become the default setting on a society that refuses to address the social problems that require more effort and long-term investment. Just like the medical and prison staff who turned their eyes away from a woman and child in need, as a society we turn our eyes away from those in need: the mentally ill and homeless, the impoverished, the marginalized in our society. 

Or when we can’t avert our eyes, we imprison them. 

 


Monday Moanin’ (A Day Late)

September 2, 2008

Last week was an historic week for politics. Obama’s nomination and speech on the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech was something I wish my parents, especially my father, were here to witness. My dad, Bernie, was a Harvard Law School graduate. Like Obama he was offered jobs at silk stocking law firms on Wall Street, but chose to come to Detroit and establish the second interracial law firm in Michigan.

My dad was a civil rights lawyer who went south as part of the Lawyers Guild during the most dangerous days of the Civil Rights Movement to represent the Freedom Riders who were being persecuted and prosecuted. I was just a boy when he would call home. I could hear the fear in my mother’s voice when she talked with him. Now I hear hope in the voice of an African-American (so much like my father) as he spoke to America – not as an African-American, but as an American.

When I was young, segregation was still the law in the South. In the last eight years moral evil is once again creeping into politics and into the law. I practice in the State of Michigan where a right-wing gang of four on the Supreme Court is intent on destroying the rights of all victims. Barack Obama now emerges as a symbol of hope that maybe, just maybe, we can right the ship.

There was another voice heard last week as well – the voice of cynical politics. I just want to hear Sarah Palin’s justification for being on a ticket with a man who opposes equal pay for equal work by women. Let’s not kid ourselves, Palin is there to capture the James Dobson’s of the party, you know—the hate mongers… the guys who condemn black teenage pregnancies.

Maybe it’s just me but, couldn’t you hear the voice of Slim Pickens as Palin kept mispronouncing the word “nuclear”. She kept pronouncing it as a “noo-ku-lar” proliferation. If Pickens was introducing Paulin as the VP choice, he might say:

“ Awwww, shoooot. Looky here boys. This little lady is always packin’ and as part-time mayor of Wasilla, Alaska she stood toe-to-toe with those gol-derned Roooskies and never lost an inch of American soil – and you know Russia is on the border of Czechoslovakia. So next time that ole wildcat Putin goes a’stompin’ and a’bombin’ those good ole boys down in Georgia you can bet yer bottom dollar I’ll be sendin’ her down South to kick some commie behind.”

There is a difference between historic achievement and historic cynicism. We should all judge McCain’s judgment and wisdom with his pick of Palin. Still, as I am fond of pointing out to my young lawyers, in the words of Paul Simon, “people hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.”