chronicling the high cost of our legal system

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Posted Jun. 20 (special all-critical edition): 

Nice try (Jan. 3) at pinning the suit brought by Mr Jack Ass against MTV/Viacom claiming defamation on an "overlawyered" society.  However, I suggest you read the actual complaint filed by Mr. Ass, the Affidavit in support of which you may find here (courtesy The Smoking Gun). Mr. Ass filed the suit pro se.  No lawyers involved there. I suspect the case will be thrown out faster than you can say "Jackass."  -- Michael L. Sensor, Attorney at Law, Wilmington, Del.

We wonder whether someone of Mr. Sensor's literal-mindedness experiences a gotcha moment every time he sees an item in The New Republic that is neither new nor about a republic.  We might add that legal systems which tend to encourage lawyers with weak cases might also tend to encourage pro se litigants with weak cases.  Hardly a contradiction there -- ed.

I happened to come across your website while searching for something else.  If you are as generally inaccurate and misleading as in the one item with which I am intimately familiar, your site is a sham.

I am the lawyer who successfully brought the lawsuit against the Ann Arbor Public Schools discussed in your archive ("Blackboard Jungle", Sept. 14, 1999).  You omit the most important fact of the case.  Under Michigan law, substitutes who teach for at least a certain number of days in a school year for one school district have a statutory right to a regular teaching position for which the teacher is certified, if one subsequently becomes available.  The school district required substitutes to waive this statutory right as a condition of employment.  Such waivers of statutory rights are generally found to be illegal.  If they were not, employers could nullify numerous employee-protection laws (minimum wage, worker compensation, etc.) by requiring employees to waive their statutory rights in order to be hired.

Many of the substitutes who relocated to other cities and states did so precisely because they couldn't "have made a career in Ann Arbor," since the only thing offered to them was low-paying daily substitute jobs which couldn't support them.

You are certainly entitled to believe that this is an "overlawyered" society, but you should have the honesty not to so blatantly distort the facts. -- Thomas F. Wieder, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mr. Wieder demonstrates nothing whatever to be inaccurate about our item (whose backup in the Ann Arbor News is no longer online).  We did not assert that the verdict resulted from a misreading by the court of the applicable law; we did take note that its results were absurdly harsh toward the taxpayers of Ann Arbor, who were royally mulcted to pay for work never done by ex-employees who had promised never to file such a suit.  If that result is required by Michigan education law, high time for legislators to change the law. -- ed. 

While I believe there are a lot of unnecessary lawsuits, I don't think your website is accurately portraying the entire picture.  It seems you only singled out specific types of lawsuits.

The real problem isn't the laws that are written, it's the attorneys and their clients that twist the intent of the law.

Several of your examples were regarding the ADA and that clients were benefiting from abusing the ADA.  If you were to look at the flip side of the ADA situation, you would see just as many disabled people's rights getting abused by large corporations, restaurants, and Boards of Education.

You should take a look at the "due process" systems school boards have.  Talk about unnecessary and unfair.  You have a child in special education who requires some (not a lot of) accommodations, which are mandated by ADA. If the school arbitrarily decides they don't want to do anything (and they often do), the parents have to take the school to due process.  The hearing officers work for the school board, they have an unlimited amount of money to spend on legal fees.  They can drag the process on for months or years until the parents are financially drained.  The school boards will have spent tens of thousands of dollars to deny a child services that would have cost the school district $6,000.  Talk about a waste!

It would be nice to see some of these situations on your website. -- Carrie L., Oregon

As a young attorney, on my own. barely getting by, these large verdicts are an incentive to invest years of my life to that cause (not to mention the tremendous amounts of money it takes) and take a chance on someone's case. Most people don't realize that that majority of these cases could have been settled early on, outside of the purview of the press, for very little (especially in light of how much these large corporations pay their attorneys to defend these cases). Many times, cases are lost because plaintiff's attorneys are overwhelmed by superlarge law firms representing these large corporations. These verdicts may seem large to you, but compare them with the profits made by these same companies, and the typical verdicts seems paltry in comparison. -- Philip A. Duvalsaint, Esq., no address given

I will not tell you my situation, only that my four year old son is in the grave due to a medical malpractice/wrongful death. We need the lawyers to help us. The problem in the medical field is that some doctors make it bad for all. The issue being, in my case, if I sue this doctor and win this will drive up his premiums (which it should) and hopefully if other parents win too, then this man will not be able to afford to practice and that is what we all want. It is too bad the lawsuits affect all doctors. It shouldn't be this way. In the future the people hiring these doctors should be more cautious on who they hire and do a better background history on them before hiring them. I do feel for the good doctors, but totally disagree with putting caps on medical liability suits. If these doctors that injured our children and caused their deaths were us, and we were them, I am sure the story would be different. -- Pam, no address given

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