September 18, 2003

Imputed income

Regarding Gene Healy's item on support payments after divorce (Sept. 18): It's easy to make a lot of laws sound silly, especially when the appraisal is based on anecdotal evidence or ignorance of the rule's history or purpose.

I first ran into the Imputed Income issue as a summer law clerk in 1978. I was amazed to see that how the rule was applied to what appeared to be a good faith reduction in income. The topic interested me enough, that I used it for my Third Year writing requirement, which later was the basis for my first two legal publications, the first of which surveyed the law in each state, and the second of which attempted to define a rule that was fair to the support-payer and protected the child's support needs.

A decade later, when I actually saw real child support cases, the source of the imputed income rule became clear (and many of my ivory-tower posturing seemed rather juvenile) -- a very large percentage of non-custodial parents (mostly men, of course), take bad faith, irresponsible actions aimed at greatly reducing their child support obligations, often as reprisal against the child's mother: quitting jobs, cooking books if self-employed, switching to under-the-table sources of income, suddenly finding a need to perform public interest work. In addition, courts were faced with fathers who were able to work but were chronically unemployed. The imputed income rule was an attempt to protect the child, keep children and mothers off welfare or help compensate the State for welfare parents, and protect the court against manipulation.

Some states and some judges apply the imputed income rule in a fair-handed manner -- checking into the bona fides of the decision. Others apply the rule in a far too abrupt and blackline manner. Working to make the rule work in a manner that is fair to all parties makes sense. Ridiculing it out of ignorance or some ideological distrust of government is foolish.

David Giacalone, editor, EthicalEsq.?

Posted by Walter Olson at 12:11 PM | Comments (13)

Suing Iraq's suppliers

Regarding the suits against banks and chemical companies that dealt with the Saddam Hussein regime before Gulf War I (Aug. 25): That actually doesn't sound like a bad theory, if they were actually injured by these chemicals. The manufacturers and banks were clearly negligent in selling them to Saddam -- they knew or ought to have known that he was an evil tyrant who would use them to hurt or kill innocent people. They had no reason to suspect, of course, that those people might be US soldiers, but that shouldn't detract from their liability.

I do see one teeny tiny problem, though - as Michael Fumento has documented, there weren't any actual injuries to US servicemen that are attributable to these chemicals. Gulf War veterans as a class are exactly as healthy as they ought to be, or healthier. So while Kurdish victims of Saddam's gassing may have a case here, US GIs don't. Unfortunately, try telling that to a jury, which has been convinced by the mass media that Gulf War Syndrome is an actual illness, and that Gulf War veterans are dying like flies and suffering strange maladies that science can't explain...

Zev Sero, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Posted by Walter Olson at 10:57 AM | Comments (1)

Disabled student and UNC

As a UNC alum, I was very interested in the tale of the "senioritis" victim who sued after the University rescinded his admission (Aug. 21). It appears that the student brought in a disabled-rights claim way after the fact. Was it his lawyer's idea?

Another interesting footnote is the question of whether this guy got his stellar 1600 and AP scores on untimed tests -- the standard "relief" given to ADD students. Since these standardized tests are substantially speed-based, the untimed test question really makes for a major problem; apparently the percentage of supposedly disabled students getting untimed tests at law school (and traditional law school exams are incredibly speed based) is so high as to skew significantly overall grading curves. A good friend of mine who went to Stanford Law tells me of serious wrangling between students and the Career Development Office over whether they could include an advisory blurb saying "non-disability timed tests" or something similar on their resumes.

Jim Copland, Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy, New York, NY

Posted by Walter Olson at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

NYC midwives

Regarding your Aug. 22 and Sept. 3 items: It used to be that midwives and nurses in general weren't sued for malpractice. Why? Because they had no money to go after. It certainly wasn't because they used to be perfect and now make a lot of mistakes.

Now I'm hearing that lawyers are attaching additional medical personnel to a plaintiff's case (like catching dolphins in tuna nets?) in order to extort a smallish settlement early in the process that allows funding for going after the "big fish". It's a hard sell to keep a defendant that shouldn't be even in the crosshairs to stay in and face ruinous costs of a trial when they could get out for $10,000 or so. Unless the system is changed, the only response is to fight to the bitter end in every case or to have no easy money to go after. Unlike doctors who are forced to carry malpractice insurance in order to be on a hospital staff, nurse midwives working out of an independent facility should protect their assets, drop their liability insurance, and tell prospective patients that they have none. There are plenty of people who would still use their services.

Interestingly, right in the middle of the New York Post story of August 12 about the midwives' disappearance, there is a paid advertising box with links to three personal injury law firms. We need look no further for the cause of the crisis.

Scott L. Replogle M.D., Louisville, Colo.

Posted by Walter Olson at 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

Earlier letters before format change

In September 2003, Overlawyered adopted a weblog format for its letters to the editor. Earlier letters can be viewed here (next most recent batch of letters) or here (overview of letters by month).

Posted by Walter Olson at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)