Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

“That’s why I didn’t become a trial lawyer”

Democratic front-runner (if it’s okay to call him that now) Barack Obama tells a Newton, Iowa audience about his early decisions to pursue civil rights, community organizing and public office rather than more lucrative legal specialties, and is blasted in parts of the lefty blogosphere for the implied dig at John Edwards. (Shailagh Murray, Washington Post “The Trail”, Dec. 30; Kos, TPM, Kia Franklin, etc.) Per the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, “Obama is starting to use the term ‘trial lawyer’ more often on the stump to describe Edwards, perhaps hoping to capitalize on the negative associations many voters have with that particular profession.” (“The Trail”, Dec. 31).

P.S. Some highlights of our earlier Obama coverage: Aug. 5, 2004 (“Anyone who denies there’s a crisis with medical malpractice insurance is probably a trial lawyer”); Apr. 10, 2007 (making inroads nonetheless on Edwards’ trial-lawyer donor base; per Legal Times, “Despite Obama’s silence on the issues trial lawyers care about, those who support him say they are confident he will back trial lawyers when the time comes”); Jul. 31 and Aug. 5 (auditions at AAJ/ATLA convention). P.P.S. Plus Ted at Point of Law a year back (“far from convinced” that Obama will cross the trial bar, despite his vote for the Class Action Fairness Act).

“The Real Mortgage Fraud”

Steve Chapman:

This spectacle has brought forth recriminations from politicians who picture the lenders as James Bond villains, cackling at the chance to toss hard-working families out on the street. In fact, this course is almost as bad a deal for lenders as it is for borrowers. They typically lose up to half the value of the mortgage on foreclosures.

From listening to the critics, you’d never guess that. Barack Obama denounces “predatory lenders” for “driving low-income families into financial ruin.” Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, blames everything on an epidemic of “abusive lending.”

But lenders who made bad decisions are already paying the price. Many mortgage companies have gone bankrupt. And if these loans are so unconscionable, the question is not why the foreclosure rate is so high but why it’s so low. …

The remedies urged by Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the like include placing a moratorium on foreclosures, freezing teaser rates for five years or more, and forcing lenders to reduce loan amounts to reflect deflated home values. These options are conspicuous for a couple major defects.

The first is that they punish lenders for the failings of borrowers. Why should someone who has kept the terms of a contract be penalized for the benefit of the party that didn’t? A lot of people took a calculated gamble on interest rates and home prices. Had they bet right, they’d be reaping the rewards. Since they bet wrong, they are entitled to bear the consequences.

I wrote about the issue in the Wall Street Journal in April.

Assignment Desk: Edwards, Obama, and lobbyist money

At YearlyKos, John Edwards and Barack Obama sought to distinguish themselves from Hillary Clinton by saying they didn’t take money from registered lobbyists, and Clinton was booed for defending herself. (Also: Franke-Ruta.)

I found this curious: after all, Obama and Edwards showed up at the national convention of the lobbying group for the trial lawyers, the former Association of Trial Lawyers of America (who now call themselves the American Association of Justice). There, they gave speeches (as did Clinton, Biden, and Richardson). A look at the largest donors for Obama and especially Edwards shows a disproportionate number of active members of that lobbying group. Indeed, John Edwards’s finance chairman is Fred Baron, the former president of ATLA. If Obama and Edwards want voters to believe that Clinton is influenced by lobbyist money, what should we think about these two candidates’ debts to trial lawyers? Are we to believe that the critical difference is the lobbyist registration papers, at which point money becomes tainted and dirty? Are any reporters going to ask that hard question, or will they let the two candidates demagogue from the high ground as they take millions from the most pernicious special interest group in America?

“Obama Makes Inroads Into Edwards’ Trial Lawyer Base”

For better or worse, John Edwards isn’t as special this time around:

For years Edwards has relied on the support of his fellow trial lawyers’ deep pockets to help get him elected — first to the Senate and then three years ago, when he made a run at the White House and then became running mate to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who won the Democratic nomination. But as Edwards mounts his second presidential bid, he has struggled to attract plaintiffs lawyers beyond his stable of longtime donors, just as other Democratic candidates, such as Sens. Hillary Clinton from New York, Barack Obama from Illinois, and Joseph Biden Jr. from Delaware, have been actively wooing the plaintiffs bar. …

Many of the trial lawyers who supported the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004 have chosen to throw their lot in with Obama or are keeping their options open by donating to multiple candidates. The fracturing of the trial-lawyer constituency could have dramatic effects on the total dollars Edwards will be able to raise. …

Also cited as hurting Edwards with some past givers: the steps he took to moderate his image on litigation reform during the 2004 campaign, including his endorsement of pre-screening of merit in medical malpractice cases. Even Sen. Biden is making inroads:

Biden has long been seen as a supporter of the trial lawyer community on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has opposed legal-liability proposals and bills that would limit claims against health-care providers. No candidate is more visibly tied to the trial bar than Edwards. But Clinton and Biden, who also headlined a national trial lawyer convention in Miami Beach in February, have both said they’re opposed to caps on punitive damage awards.

Despite Obama’s silence on the issues trial lawyers care about, those who support him say they are confident he will back trial lawyers when the time comes.

(Anna Palmer, Legal Times, Apr. 9).

Obama finally pays his traffic tickets

Because it’s not as if traffic law counts as real law, right? (Howie Carr, “Hillary circling as Obama searches for parking space”, Boston Herald, Mar. 8).

P.S. in response to comments: I think it’s a cultural fact worth recording that the editor of the Harvard Law Review felt no obligation at the time to settle up on a stack of unpaid parking tickets. It’s not wholly unrelated to the phenomenon of attorney general nominees’ not having bothered to tell the IRS about their household employees, or of U.S. Supreme Court justices’ meeting for regular poker nights reputedly in noncompliance with local law: namely, it suggests that sonorous Law Day maxims about the need for each of us to respect the law in its full majesty have surprisingly little traction even in (especially in?) elite law circles. That’s a fact worth knowing, if true.

That Obama is running for president now is the least interesting bit of the story (and indeed is only of significance in that it provided the impetus for him to pay up). Far from being received as an unforgivable blot on his character, I suspect the story will (like his smoking habit) serve to humanize the senator for many voters, perhaps especially among those who, like many readers of this site, have a somewhat rebellious attitude toward law to begin with.

P.P.S. There have apparently been some malfunctions with comments on this entry — if you entered a comment and it didn’t show up within a reasonable time, you might want to email and let us know.