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Posted June 13: 

Re: "Says cat attacked his dog; wants $1.5 million" (May 7): the San Diego Union-Tribune story failed to mention that I am disabled and my dog Kimba is a Service Animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act and a Certified California Assistance Dog.  Because of my other disabilities, panic attacks are life threatening -- I am also anaphylactically allergic to cats and they are deadly to me.

The library staff would not call paramedics or police for me and the dispatcher assigned the incident a low priority.  Of the four attorneys I contacted, two said it was too specialized an area of law; the two specialist law firms were too busy with mobility access issues.  I filed the claim myself because I had to under time requirements per California law.   -- Richard Espinosa

Jaffe Associates, major legal news flaks, are looking to sign up legal journalists to ghostwrite articles for
law firms under a service called WritersForLawyers.  But what if you're a journalist whose editor doesn't approve of "outside writing jobs"? ("flagrant conflicts of interest" has such a nasty ring to it!) Jaffe will gladly help you evade detection:

"Q: My employer frowns upon outside writing jobs. Can my work with you remain confidential?

"A: Absolutely.  Most editorial policies prohibit employees from publishing work in outside publications under the writer's byline. We'll never ask you to write under your own byline. In fact, we can arrange it so that contact you have with our client is on a first name basis only. The information you enter into our writers' database includes your name and the names of the publications you've written for.  However, when we match you up with a client, we'll provide the client only with a general description of you and your experience. If your involvement must be confidential, we'll do whatever we can to ensure that it is."  -- Bob Van Voris, Staff Reporter, National Law Journal, New York, N.Y.

[We have to say we were taken aback by the whole premise of the program, namely that practicing lawyers would use ghostwriters for the sorts of articles in legal publications that make a parade of familiarity with some complex or fast-changing area of law.  As the Jaffe people recognize, such articles are a powerful way of attracting new clients -- the main reason, of course, being that most clients take for granted that a lawyer who publishes a long article on (say) the current state of California construction defect law must know more about that arcane field than the ordinary lawyer.  Now it turns out that such an "author" may know squat about engineering evidence and simply have written a check to a ghost service to borrow someone else's expertise.  What's next, ghosted dissertations for academics? ]

Your readers might be interested in the recent settlement of a class action lawsuit on behalf of First USA credit card holders.  Its details can be found at this URL.  As I read the fine print, I (as a current cardholder) get 38 cents credited to my account, while "my" lawyers (i.e. the class action attorney who is representing me without my consent) will get $3 million.  Sounds like a fair deal.  -- Peter Uhlmann, Washington, D.C.

For readers who have been following the saga of Northeastern University law professor Richard Daynard and his failure to disclose his financial interest in tobacco lawsuits while publishing an article in the pages of the British Medical Journal promoting such lawsuits, in violation of explicit BMJ conflicts policy [see April 21, 2000; letter to the editor, Jan. 31, 2001], there are two new developments to report.  First, the Los Angeles Times reported last month that Daynard has filed a claim in federal court in Boston against attorneys Richard Scruggs and Ronald Motley, saying they reneged on a 1996 handshake agreement to pay him 5 percent of fees they might earn from representing states in the tobacco litigation.  ["Tobacco Wars' Huge Legal Fees Ignite New Fight", May 20].  Second, BMJ editor Dr. Richard Smith has now responded (email dated June 7) to my repeated inquiries about the affair, as follows: "Thank you for your email, and I'm sorry that I'm being so slow.  I've contacted Professor Daynard, and he is quite happy for us to declare his competing interest.   The next step is for me to draft some words and put them in the journal, and the delay is entirely down to me.  I'm sorry I've being so slow, and I'll get onto the case as quickly as I can."  Two years late is better than not at all, of course, but we are still left with the question: why did Daynard not make the disclosure in the first place? -- Martha Perske, Darien, Ct.

About your May 22 ("Razorfish, Cisco, IPO suits") article: you miss one of the most important points. There is no bidding process, rather just a "first-come, first-grab" attempt at "representing" the class for such class action suits.  Since these suits are put under class status, purportedly for the benefit of the class and/or society, why isn't a standard bidding process abided by?  Simply have all firms which want to represent the class put in their sealed proposals indicating their offer of  "percentage take" from the settlement.  After a reasonable deadline, the presiding judge can then choose the firm with the lowest bid that can do the job. -- Phillip Bradford, New Brunswick, N.J.

[In fact, some courts have been experimenting with auction procedures in recent years, with results that many reformers find encouraging.  For a recent case where competitive bidding may have worked to reduce counsel fees, see Jason Hoppin, "Litigation Laboratory Closes With Network Associates Settlement", The Recorder, May 18.

Regarding the Supreme Court decision in favor of disabled golfer Casey Martin (June 1-3):  Does this mean the American Bowling Congress must allow someone to bowl in their tournaments who uses a ball ramp or starts 20 feet closer to the pins?  Does the American Darts Organization have to allow boards to be lowered from the standard 68 inches off the floor?  Can those who play wheelchair basketball now play in the NBA -- and get the basket lowered?  What does this mean for such as NASCAR (a blind, deaf, or partially-paralyzed driver?), the NHL, etc.?  Already, courts have forced a youth-soccer association to let a child with cerebral palsy to play with a metal walker; this despite soccer's Laws of the Game, which do NOT allow for anything that is dangerous to other players to be worn during matches at any level. 

Maybe what is needed is a full review of the ADA and many of the out-in-left-field rulings which have come down over the last ten years, and put limits on what truly is a disability and who or what can be sued under ADA.  No, better yet:  It is past time to repeal the law outright. -- Melvin Hagerman, Colorado Springs, Colo. 

I just received a Pelican brand flashlight.  While reading the "unconditional lifetime guarantee of excellence" I noted that it does not cover the following events -- and I quote -- "The above guarantee does not cover sharkbite, bear attack, or children under 5." Obviously they have A) a sense of humor; and B) children under 5. -- Joel D. McNerny

You might appreciate the lyrics to this Al Stewart song, License to Steal.  ("We've got seven hundred thousand attorneys at law").  I do believe he's read your book! Stewart is a famous oenophile but was once a top selling singer-songwriter -- Year of the Cat, Time Passages. -- Kevin O'Brien

[We also take note of reader O'Brien's recent "Aviator's Soapbox" column at Aero-News.Net, which makes it even clearer that he is not a member of any attorney fan club.

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