A difference of opinion

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 9, 2003

Perhaps you saw the TV news video of a disgruntled man calmly shooting at someone hiding behind a tree. Admit it, you had mixed feelings when you learned the shooter had been fleeced and the one being shot was a lawyer. Not many of us would attempt to reduce the lawyer population in that fashion but most of us agree they take too large a slice of settlement pies. It did my heart good to see a lawyer dance with fear and I hope next time he will be a little less acquisitive. In today’s paper there is a report of a lawsuit brought by the family of a boy killed by a drunken driver. Their son was a passenger riding with his buddy who was drunk and driving without a license. The family, acting no doubt upon the advice of a clever lawyer, figured the drunk driver is responsible for their son’s death and it is only fair to sue both him and his mother who could have prevented this tragedy. Would the lawyer have suggested an abortion?

The lawsuit asks for a measly $42 million in punitive and compensatory damages. If we assume for a moment they win their case and the attorney takes only 20 percent, about $8 million, he can fire his secretary, close up his practice and live in the Bahamas for the rest of his life. I’d say most lawyers would agree that’s fair, after all he worked nearly a week preparing papers at a paltry $200,000 per hour. And the family should be able to continue their lifestyle on $34 million. But how can the lawyer keep a straight face in court?

Is there a need for lawyers to battle over the case of our Department of Public Utilities versus employees who feel they were unfairly &uot;dismissed? As I write this it is still hush-hush but rumors suggest it is all about a &uot;mislaid&uot; check two years ago. At this moment the City Manager is mum but a statement is forthcoming. I admire his fortitude when he insists he has the right to interview possible employee replacements. The rumor also suggests an out-of-town lawyer will represent the &uot;offended&uot; employees. I suppose this move, an outsider, is to eliminate any local lawyer that might favor the city. Stay tuned.

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When you look in the Tidewater Yellow Pages to find a lawyer you will be exhausted just turning the pages. Figuring a hundred or so lawyers per page and several hundred pages, it gives you an idea how many lawyers are available. It strikes fear in my heart to think they could possibly all be busy. Do you suppose there is a team of lawyers, hired by the other lawyers that meet daily to dream up outlandish reasons people can sue each other? Do they work for a percentage of the percentage collected by those who represent clients?

Some of their TV commercials are laughable. Especially the tough guys who guarantee they will fight to the death for every dollar you are due, they will go straight to the auto insurance company presidents and wrestle them in their offices. By hiring one of them you are telling those blood-sucking companies you mean business, you aren’t fooling around and by god you demand respect. But how can you respect that type of lawyer? Fortunately there are other types that can lead you through the real estate purchasing maze for a reasonable fee. In my 78th year on earth that is the only kind of lawyer I have ever needed – I’ve never sued or been sued. I have many &uot;friends&uot; who are lawyers, a daughter is one, but when you live as clean as I do there will be no need for their services until it’s time to probate my will. But I keep my fingers crossed.

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Let’s see, what is today? I still see campaign signs in yards and at many corners in the rural areas – if I had lost I sure would have picked up mine. So what did you learn from the result of this election other than that money talks? Judging by his ads in newspapers and the amount and size of his signs I’d say Mr. Carter really wanted that job. And apparently the endorsements he received got him enough more votes than Pretlow – it also indicates the Republican Party effort was feeble. Work harder next time, Mr. Trent.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be contacted via e-mail: robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com