Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a shark?
A: The lawyer wears wingtips.
For as long as there have been lawyers, there have been lawyer jokes because for ordinary people, lawyers have frequently been objects of fear and concern. Legendary for creating opaque fine-print gotchas, manipulating suffering for their own gain, and using the letter of the law to cause gross injustices, trial lawyers in particular bring on feelings of hatred.
Those who own a small business or operate some other commercial activity live in dread of the knock on the door from a plaintiff's attorney; each day's news brings more proof of why this worry is justified. Millions of dollars paid to someone for spilling hot coffee on themselves and then sitting in the steaming puddle? Burglars injured in the course of their predation suing the property owner? Any obvious miscarriage of justice that you can imagine has taken place, documented the length and breadth of the World Wide Web.
Justice, even true justice, is not free; injustice can get exceedingly expensive. Unlike in other countries such as Britain, the person starting a lawsuit need only come up with the money for his own lawyer; and with contingency agreements that pay only on victory, often not even that.
Should the case be won, a jackpot awaits; should it be lost, there's no cost to the plaintiff beyond his own time. The poor defendant, though, is left with an enormous legal bill either way.
That's why companies so often settle even ridiculous lawsuits, because it's cheaper to settle than to fight; unfortunately, in so doing they establish new precedents for further lawsuits. The result is exactly the cost increases you'd expect: for instance, outrageous legal judgments are often blamed for America's crisis of health-insurance costs.
Everyone agrees that people should have a right to sue for damages when they are wronged. In the old days, part of the job of judges was to throw out cases which were obviously unreasonable or meritless, and the job of legislators was to write reasonable and common-sense laws so that the justice system could dispense actual justice.
It's certainly not in America's interest to get rid of our civil justice system entirely. But it's equally clear that, today, we have far too many lawsuits for far too many irrelevant things costing far too much.
What's urgently required is a reform of the system to make it harder and more costly to bring frivolous or unreasonable cases.
What's exactly not needed is new laws allowing almost anyone to sue almost anyone else with any money for no good reason.
Guess which approach Congress is now taking? According to the Washington Times, Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA) added a special provision to a bill scheduled to pass by Memorial Day:
The measure sets grounds for anyone "who has suffered, or reasonably expects to suffer, a harm attributable, in whole or in part," to government inaction to file a "citizen suit." The term "harm" is broadly defined as "any effect of air pollution (including climate change), currently occurring or at risk of occurring." [emphasis added]
How does this kill anything resembling free enterprise or economic liberty? Let us count the ways.
Take a look at the weasel words that eliminate requirement of proof of any kind. No harm needs to have actually happened - only to be at risk of happening.
Regular Scragged readers are well aware that "global warming" is a lie and a scam; how many of us, though, have confidence that a court would find it so? As Al Gore so proudly proclaims, anything emitting carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, melting icecaps, and eventually, higher sea levels; and after all, unlike most writers at Scragged, he has a Nobel Prize.
That means that anyone within, say, twenty miles of the coast - which is to say, a vast number of Democrats and inner-city types - can sue anyone else for damages. Coal generating plants? Car manufacturers? Farmers raising flatulent cattle? Commuters who drive to work? People who insist on breathing? Fair game!
What Rep. Waxman is actually proposing is the legendary War of All Against All in which, as Hobbes declared, "all have a right to all things." The difference is that this time, the war over who gets what will be fought in court. At best, we'll get total legal gridlock and no real cases can proceed; at worst, all economic activity will flee as fast as the planes (owned by foreign airlines which are out of lawsuit-range, of course) can go.
It's difficult to imagine that our own government would dare to actively kill all economic activity in this country - or to even think they could get away with it. By this imaginative scheme, they don't have to.
Instead, Rep. Waxman's magnum opus takes advantage of the residual American respect for the "rule of law". It won't be the government, as such, imposing crippling fines and penalties on everyone in sight; it will be the court system, after a trial following what appears to be due process as guaranteed in the Constitution.
Of course, a moment's common sense will tell you that it's anything but. Is a law penalizing you for breathing or using any form of modern energy truly "due process," no matter what a court says? How can it be just to hold someone liable for the projected cost of harm which might happen, but hasn't actually happened yet? The very idea would be ridiculous if it were not so deadly serious.
About the only possible good that might conceivably come of this would be shutting Al Gore up once and for all; his oversized mansion, idling limousines, fancy boat and gas-guzzling private jet, to say nothing of his own bloviating, must release a thousand times more "harmful" greenhouse gas than any ordinary Joe.
Unlike President Obama and Rep. Waxman, he holds no public office so cannot claim to be doing "the people's business." Surely any and all of us can "reasonably expect to suffer", at the very least "in part", a harm attributable to climate change "at risk of occurring" due to Mr. Gore's polluting activities, can we not?
If, God forbid, this preposterous bill passes, it's time for every conservative within scent of the coast to run, not walk, to a trial lawyer and file suit against His Environmental Excellency Albert Gore Jr. Let's put the blame for this "global warming" nonsense right where it properly belongs.