From the lawyers-as-legislators file

There’s nothing tremendously surprising about, say, a criminal defense lawyer winning election as a state legislator and then using his or her influence to strengthen due process protections for persons accused of crimes or to lower excessive penalties for those convicted. But what are we to make of the much rarer, opposite phenomenon — the criminal defense lawyer who gets elected and then pushes for the application of more stringent penalties against people like his own clients? Jerry Stratton, Charles Homiller, Radley Balko, and Lines in the Sand all discuss the case of Virginia Del. David Albo, a Fairfax Republican whose day job is as a lawyer defending motorists from DUI and other traffic charges. Del. Albo is also a sponsor of a bill in Richmond that would stiffen traffic fines as a way of providing money to fund transportation projects, and he has been the sponsor over the years of numerous other bills that make life more difficult for traffic defendants. Radley Balko is perhaps uncharitable when he suggests that the motive of lawyer/legislators like Albo is to “[steer] customers toward their criminal defense practices” — it’s possible, after all, for a lawyer to hold honest convictions that happen to be adverse to their clients’ interests. But it’s hard not to join in Balko’s parting observation: “I wonder if Albo tells his clients that he wrote many of the laws they’ve hired him to defend them from.” Update: Point of Law, Jun. 25, 2007.

3 Comments

  • The rent seeking theory explains the majority of laws, appellate decisions, and lawyer conduct above all other economic theories and policy consideration.

    Ask, which law or appellate decision is more likely to increase lawyer employment, you can predict the majority of them.

    The lawyer favored economic Coase Theorem somehow won a Nobel Prize. It has been relentless, explosively, catastrophically, and repeatedly rebutted by real world cases.

    The rent seeking theory has nearly no exceptions. The opposite of rent seeking is profit seeking.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_seeking

    Go to the links at the bottom for more substantive reviews of the theory.

  • Virginia law generally is tougher on crime of all sorts than Maryland law.

    Maybe that’s why crime in Fairfax County, Virginia is much lower than crime in demographically-similar Montgomery County, Maryland, even though crime levels were the same between the two counties in 1978.

    Albo has sound reasons for seeking to toughen criminal penalties.

    Unlike many of his lawyer colleagues, who do exactly what their mercenary self-interest would dictate (i.e., divorce lawyers in the state senate rigging divorce laws to encourage more divorce and dependence on lawyers by litigants), Albo’s actions are logically defensible and don’t always advance his self-interest.

  • The problem with the system proposed is that, not only does it raise the fines, it changes the points system, and requires drivers with points to pay more for their license.

    It also raises the sales tax on vehicles from 3 1/2% to 5% and plans on raising the gas tax 9 cents over the next 3 years.

    Unfortunately most of the funds would go to the DC area and to the Richmond area. Those of us in Southwest VA. will still be dealing with the same old roads, and their poor state of repair.