Monday, January 9, 2012

Ah, politics...

A friend pointed out this story (ABC News video) to me today. Apparently, one of the knuckleheads (see, Rick Santorum) running for the GOP nomination who, like many if not all of them, is pro-tort reform might not put his money where his mouth is. But, this post isn't about being a Dem or a Repub. It's about tort reform and hypocrisy. And, from this attorney's point of view, tort reform is not only unconstitutional, it's stupid.

The story is that a few years ago Santorum's wife was injured by her chiropractor's negligent treatment resulting in back surgery. Well, that was what she alleged anyway. And, guess what? She filed a lawsuit against that doctor! And, guess what else?! She sued that doctor for $500,000! (The jury awarded her $350,000 so one might say her claim was valid - at least the jury believed it.) When confronted by ABC news, Santorum whined that not all that $350,000 was for "pain and suffering" - what all those tort reformers hate. Yeah, thanks Rick, your wife had $18,000 in medical bills. You're right, not ALL of that was for pain and suffering. Rick, even I haven't filed a lawsuit asking for $500,000 with only $18,000 in medical bills.

The reason that this is funny is that Mr. Santorum is going around the country touting tort reform and demanding a $250,000 cap on cases like this - or 1/2 of what his wife sued this chiropractor for...and that was 1999 dollars! In fact, this website says $500,000 then is more like somewhere between $640,000 and $777,000 in today's money. Whoa!!

Now, this might be an fact, I'm sure it is but that doesn't change the fact that by almost any definition this is hypocrisy, plain and simple. As someone who works in this field, I can tell you it's ridiculous for him to take this position under these circumstances.

And isn't that our politicians favorite trait these days, hypocrisy? Is there any candidate from any party that isn't?!? If we could just find one.....(cue dreamy music)

This situation smacks of those politicians who are staunchly pro-life. (Oh, hello again Rick.) These people are unyielding in their views - there is no talking to them, right? I mean under no circumstances can abortion be justified, right? And then, guess what? Their wife, daughter, mother, aunt, good friend, ex, whomever becomes saddled with an unwanted pregnancy for whatever reason and guess what they're doing behind closed doors? Are they are having a discussion about having an abortion - you better believe it! Effing make our world so much more difficult!!

Really, the point is that just like the abortion situation, and tort reform, and frying Santorum for his hypocrisy because his wife sued a chiropractor for lots of money - they are all oversimplifications. Life is just too complicated - it doesn't fit neatly into a scheme, or a box. The number of scenarios or factual nuances in anyone's story is endless and that's what our jury system is for - to have someone arbitrate these disputes who is not constrained by anything but the current state of the law as described to them by the court. 12 members of your community will make that final decision, for better or for worse, right or wrong. It's not perfect, in fact it's extremely flawed and,...that's the point. Well, at least that's what this attorney thinks.

Same reason that sentencing guidelines do not work or make sense. Every person's situation is different. If someone is convicted, a judge needs to have discretion to determine that individual's appropriate sentence. Again, it's not perfect. Perfection is just not attainable in our complicated society and better to let the chips fall where they may then have some legislature, totally removed from the situation, make some decision based on what a lobbyist sold them on? Over the trial judge who just heard all the facts about what happened?! Does that make a shred of sense?!?!

You better believe when those legislators' sons, daughters, nephews, fathers, wives, neighbors, what-have-you, are convicted of some crime, they'll be wishing there weren't sentencing guidelines determining their sentence, especially if there's a nasty mandatory minimum. They'll be the first one in front of the judge explaining why in this situation, just this once, this situation is different and they should get different treatment than all those other awful criminals out there.

Well, I for one, as a criminal defense attorney as well as someone who represents those injured by others negligence, I say, screw you!! Keep your hypocritical views out of my life and leave the system alone already. Sure a tweak here or there is fine, but stop trying to get rid of the jury system in favor of the flavor of the month.


  1. Something I haven't seen discussed about sentencing guidelines is that they come from the same, simple cesspool as tort reform. Both are in opposition to an independent judiciary and the notion that a function of judges is apply the law to particular sets of facts (compare: the legislature, which creates policy to address generalized facts and circumstances). Sentencing guidelines are no more appropriate to further accountability for a crime than would be a set schedule of dollars for a particular kind of injury. It denies the individualized harm, and opposes what "justice" might be afforded in a particular case. Just why this cesspool exists, and the motives behind its inhabitants, is a separate subject.

  2. LOL - Santorum

  3. Doug -

    Santorum misses no opportunity to excoriate Trial Lawyers and their mission to keep the courts a reasonably level playing field. He is a darling of the US Chamber of Commerce.

    I wonder how Santorum feels about that nasty old "Trial Lawyer" who fought hard and obtained justice for Santorum's wife.


  5. While I agree with your assessment that each court case is unique and can't be limited by blanket mandates, what's more frightening to me is that someone of Santorum's ilk can achieve such a high level of popularity.

    Indeed, scary times for America.

  6. Wow, crapping on the GOP? I'm shocked. Thankfully the libs are all picture f-ing perfect.

    1. Either you didn't read it close enough, or I wasn't clear enough. I truly intended this to be "crapping" on both sides; or, more accurately, any hypocritical candidates. Sadly for all of us, I think that moniker would apply to EVERYONE running for ANY office on either side of the so-called aisle....

      But, in my defense, see the middle of the first paragraph: "But, this post isn't about being a Dem or a Repub. It's about tort reform and hypocrisy."