Confucius Say: Are You People Serious?

Interesting story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – In a belated celebration on Wednesday, the House marked last month’s 2,560th birthday of Chinese philosopher Confucius by passing a resolution recognizing “his invaluable contributions to philosophy and social and political thought.”

But some members apparently prefer their Confucius confined to a fortune cookie rather than on the House floor. According to the vote tally, 47 voted against the birthday resolution and 13 voted “present,” while 361 supported it.

“We love Confucius, but what a joke of a vote,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told CNN.

“I can’t go back to the people of Utah and say, ‘Yeah, we’re voting on Confucius today,'” said Chaffetz, who called the resolution “absurd.” “How many more birthdays do we vote on before we start fixing the economy?”

The resolution’s sponsor, Democrat Al Green of Texas, said on the House floor the resolution is meant to celebrate the “personal introspection” of the Chinese philosopher and his “respect of social relationships, personal and governmental morality.”

“He preached that politicians must always present truth and morality. He taught the philosophy of reciprocity, never impose upon others what you would not choose for yourself,” said Green.

When asked about the criticism aimed at his resolution, Green gave CNN a Confucius-like statement: “Although I would like 100 percent of the people to agree with me 100 percent of the time, I have learned that rarely happens.”

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who also voted against the measure, tried conjuring the Chinese philosopher in an e-mail prediction: “He who spends time passing trivial legislation may find himself out of time to read healthcare bill.”

OK, I don’t really care what your politics is, this IS a joke. I’m admittedly not current on Al Green’s record as a legislator, but I had a couple cases before him way back when he was a Justice of the Peace here and I do have an impression of him based on that.

First, when you were scheduled for court, even a one minute hearing, you had to sit and listen to his spiel: the rules of the courtroom, the rules of procedure as they differ between Justice of the Peace Court and Small Claims Court (a JP in this state will hear both types on the same docket), what mediation is and why your case will be sent to it, the postjudgment procedures, his personal theory of justice, and several personal anecdotes, and so on and so forth.

Don’t get me wrong – many JPs have a little speech that they repeat before they begin hearing cases. However the speech is usually less than ten minutes. Justice Green spoke routinely for an hour or more.

When you are a busy attorney charging your client by the hour, this expense of time is no trivial matter. Also, it was pure torture to have to sit and listen to.

I quickly came to the conclusion that Mr. Green really likes the sound of his own voice. Like. Really. And I began turning down any case in his court or that would have to be filed there (there weren’t many, but still). In retrospect, this may have been part of his plan – lower his workload by boring the attorneys into fleeing his precinct, in which case, I do have to give him credit for a job well done.

I had one case – fairly trivial, but the client was willing to pay and legally they had an interesting case. Two extremely hostile neighbors were fighting over a tree and the damage it allegedly did to a carport and garage. Note: tree cases are rarely about the actual tree – they are much more likely to be about something else altogether. Bad feelings were not new between these neighbors – they had bickered for years over this and that – as I said, the problem was not rooted in the actual tree. It was a power struggle and nothing more, but there were legal issues that the parties could not (would not) work out, so to court it went.

Trials in JP court are often only a few minutes long. Once in a while you end up before a jury and even then, it doesn’t last long. I think my maximum prior to this was a couple hours, but that included taking the judge out to a property (Road trip!) to personally view the damage.

This case (part of it the judge’s speech and I think we went involuntarily to mediation for a short time, which did not go over well with either side) lasted six hours. I wish I was kidding – it lasted all day long. It was insane. I have never worked so hard for such a trivial matter in my life. And we won – I don’t remember the details, but I do recall the Client thanking both myself and Jesus, so I know we won…..the specifics are irrelevant now. Six hours for something like a $1,400 case. Moral victory. Financial loss.

The same case in any other court would have lasted maybe an hour – there were a few witnesses and an expert witness (yes, I’m serious) to put on, but certainly not all day. It was solely because of justice Green that the parties and I unnecessarily wasted the better part of the day in his courtroom.

I don’t think he is a bad guy. But in that instance, he was inconsiderate, impractical, dismissive of the value of each parties’ time (and the financial repercussions of having counsel present), and I don’t know if it was caused by an unduly high valuation of his own importance or that he was just completely oblivious of other peoples’ needs. Maybe both.

This vote on Confucius seems to be a waste of time too. Perhaps not the biggest waste of time, but a waste nonetheless – a waste of effort and a waste of time. And it did bring him some recognition to boost his already inflated ego. I’m inclined to think it’s not out of character for him at all. I hope I’m proven wrong.

The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.
-Confucius, The Confucian Analects

"The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers"

Have you ever heard a positive lawyer joke? Me neither. And I’ve heard a lot of them. For reasons that will forever baffle me, people find it even funnier to tell lawyer jokes to lawyers, because we clearly appreciate lame attempts at humor and surely we haven’t heard them all.

Trust me, we have.

Lawyers, if conventional wisdom can be believed, are responsible for everything from greed and a growing sense of undue entitlement to outright fraud and generalized moral corruption of our society: the lack of ethics attorneys display is morally bankrupting our nation.

Lawyers, after all, are responsible for those ridiculous lawsuit that you hear about in the news. You know, like that old woman who struck a gold mine by suing McDonald’s after she spilled her own coffee on herself. Well, it makes for juicy copy anyway.

We’ve all heard a lot about “Tort Reform” and how badly we need it. In fact, it passed in Texas some time ago when it was all the rage. We in Texas and in other states have been told countless times that “Greedy Trial Lawyers” are the only ones who benefit and do so to the tune of bajillions of dollars. Obviously, they and their torts need to be limited. Do you even know what a tort is? Do you think the average voter does? I would hazard to say no, not only do they not know a precise definition, but that they don’t know a tort from a contract or almost any other cause of action. But I digress….

Considering that truly meritless tort cases (and any other meritless case) will be dismissed by the judge on their facts after a simple motion by the opposing attorney, is there really a need to reform the tort? If your answer is yes, why so? Because you’ve been told? Who told you – those ads on TV that someone ambiguous funded? Your doctor who handed you a pamphlet and urged you to vote for tort reform so his malpractice insurance would be lowered so that he wouldn’t be driven out of business or out of state by the Greedy Trial Lawyers?

Tort Reform isn’t solely concerned with medical malpractice, but it’s probably the portion that hit most voters close to home. Say someone is harmed by a doctor. Let’s call it negligence. Who benefits from that? The family might benefit financially, but of course we don’t want the grieving spouse to make too much money out of their tragedy, do we? Who else? The Greedy Trial Lawyer who took a big risk on this case by taking it on a contingency basis and ate all the costs to bring it to trial? Of course he/she profits – that’s their job! Cases like this can easily take $100,000.00 to bring to trial – should the attorney who took on that risk not benefit?

On the flip side, who profits from Tort Reform? The doctors who were being allegedly driven out of business by the legal profession? Only marginally, as it turns out. Could it be the insurance companies?

Bingo.

Insurance companies have profited astronomically since the vote to implement Tort Reform in Texas. If you are planing on having a difficult birth or complicated surgery, this might not be the state to do it in – if your health care providers drop the ball, your financial recover is severely limited, regardless of the damage done. And the insurance companies couldn’t be happier.

In fact, “ten years after so-called “tort reform” legislation, insurance companies that offer property, liability and casualty coverage are reporting record profits for 2005.

And in addition to that, because of the work and high expense involved in this type of case, you will find many fewer attorneys financially able to take on any cases in which recovery is not all but certain. So if your case is not a slam dunk, good luck getting anyone to accept it at all.

This entry explains the result of Texas voters’ actions as it applies to patients. I urge you to read it if you have recently been, ever plan to be, or are kin or friends with any health care patients in Texas or your state is considering similar legislation.

So what voters did by choosing this law to bring down the Greedy Trial Lawyers is the proverbial nose biting to spite their face. Sadly, they screwed themselves – the joke is on them.

On all of us, actually.

The title of this entry is a quote from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2. It’s often used to illustrate the point that even centuries ago, lawyers were (rightly) regarded as fully dispensable bottom dwellers of society. The irony is this: while clearly intended as a lawyer joke even then, this line of comic relief is expressed by the play’s villains who think it would be fabulous to rid society of the greedy lawyers. Of course they think that – they are the villains! Lawyers, regardless of what you think of them, are part of the system to help keep the bad guys in check, despite what the insurance company propaganda wants you to think.

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