chronicling the high cost of our legal system

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Posted Oct. 22: 

Let me just add one humorous note on the (unconfirmed) story of the celebrating Muslim worker who could not be disciplined at work (Oct. 9).  The comment from the clinical psychologist -- As "uncalled for [!] as the impromptu celebration might have been, corporations 'can't fire someone for violating something that was never spelled out'" -- reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when George had sex with the cleaning woman on his desk, and tried to note when confronted by his manager that he had not been told specifically not to do such a thing.  The parallel is so perfect that it's almost scary. -- John Kingston, Carle Place, N.Y. 

According to a report in the New Yorker magazine [see Oct. 19] our Army could have taken out the Taliban leader Mullah Omar during the first week of the war but was overruled by a Judge Advocate General, a military legal officer, who according to General Tommy R. Franks, the commander in charge at the United States Central Command in Florida, "doesn't like this, so we're not going to fire."

What is going on here?  I thought we were at war.  What are lawyers doing telling our professional warriors whom they can or cannot kill?  How in the world did we ever allow our American fighting military machine to get constipated with some sort of perverted political correctness regarding the legal rights of terrorists? 

We elected President Bush to be the Commander- In- Chief.  He is trying to do that job. Opinions from lawyers are irrelevant.  They became irrelevant when over 5,000 innocent Americans were killed by ruthless acts of war.  We must allow our military leaders the freedom to act boldly and courageously in prosecuting this war without having to look over their shoulders for "permission" from lawyers. 

If we fail to allow our military leaders to be warriors, warriors who will take spontaneous and aggressive actions whenever required to strike genuine fear in the hearts and minds of our enemies, we will never win this war.  We are not engaged in some big worldwide legal case against terrorists.  No, we are at WAR against a mortal enemy that must be defeated.  Get the lawyers out of this war!  -- Al W. Blair, Centennial, Colo.

If the courts are going to require extra time for those with learning disabilities to pass the bar exam [Aug. 20], the logical next step would be to eliminate the exam (and equivalent qualifying exams in other professions) entirely for those with disabilities that prevent them from achieving a passing grade.  Ken Platt, San Diego, Calif.

Lawyers are constantly filing class action suits over debatable billing tactics carried out by big companies, such as "rounding up" practices that result in consumers' paying higher charges for telephone usage or financial services.  I think it would be only fair if someone looked into organizing a class action against lawyers themselves for the practice of billing in 15 or 30 increments for work which may have taken less than 15 or 30 minutes for them to accomplish in reality.  (CPAs and others often do this too.)  It is one thing if they have fully disclosed this practice to clients before engaging in the work, but there is no reason why the adequacy of such disclosures should not come under investigation.  A stretch?  Maybe, but attorneys themselves make such stretches all the time.

The madness will not stop until the courts start imposing sanctions against attorneys who bring bad faith suits; until tort reform makes the plaintiffs and their counsel financially responsible for losing a case; and until attorneys are required to do more due diligence before filing a case to research its merits instead of listening only to misleading representations from potential clients.  -- David Kundysek

You asked [Sept. 3] for comments on the suggestion that doctors not treat lawyers.  In 1975 at the height of the "malpractice crisis" many physicians in California made that decision, but soon gave it up because it made more trouble than it was worth. After all, most lawyers aren't personal injury lawyers.  In my case, early referral to the University for any major problem involving a PI attorney or his family eased my anxiety.  -- M.L. Howard, M.D., J.D., Ukiah, Calif.

The medical profession is rife with stories which may be true or just medical versions of "urban legends" of physicians in certain communities refusing to see lawyers (or their wives in the case of OB/GYNs) as a protest of sorts about medical malpractice.  There are also rumblings of a potential physician work stoppage in West Virginia to protest against increasing insurance premiums.

While certainly under non-emergent circumstances a physician can refuse to treat anyone he/she wishes, in an emergency options are much more limited.  Physicians can be charged with abandonment and/or EMLATA/COBRA violations if emergent care is refused.

Also, I think it is a violation for different fee schedules to be set up for different patients.  All must be charged the same; what is collected is vastly different, but that is a topic for another letter. -- R. Scott Hannay

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