When the Plaintiff’s Bar Goes Too Far

By September 10, 2007Briefly Legal

Consequences follow. Once in a while.

From the AP:

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A prominent attorney and the two Mississippi judges he bribed for favorable rulings were sentenced Friday to several years each in federal prison.

Paul Minor, a once highly regarded attorney who amassed a fortune from asbestos, tobacco, medical malpractice and car safety cases, was ordered to serve 11 years in prison. He also was fined $2.7 million and must pay restitution.

The Department of Justice’s news release is here. Very glad to see Mississippi clawing its way out of a hellish legal climate that held back business investment.

Making a broader point about all this litigiousness is Daniel Popeo, chairman and general counsel of the Washington Legal Foundation. From The Examiner:

We’ve all heard about class-action lawyers who buy yachts, Learjets and thoroughbred racehorses with their litigation largesse. That’s why the criminal investigation of class-action law firm Milberg Weiss and the recent resignation of Bill Lerach from his California-based law firm is so captivating.

If, as reported, Lerach is pondering a guilty plea, many of his business targets, and even competitors in the plaintiffs’ bar, are no doubt anxious to see him on the receiving end the law.

The indictment of Milberg Weiss and the pursuit of its partners for allegedly making illegal kickbacks to “clients” in class-action suits is a welcome, but extremely overdue, action by our government.

“Litigation Inc.” — the sprawling network of famous and infamous plaintiff lawyers who abuse class-action lawsuits to enrich themselves and their friends in the judicial and political systems — is one of the most underregulated industries in America.

A huge, profitable and very expensive underregulated industry, one that plays a major role in restraining the ability of U.S.-based manufacturers from competing in the global marketplace.

From the Pacific Research Institute’s study, “Jackpot Justice“:

According to PRI’s calculation, the total annual accounting costs of the U.S. tort liability system is $865.37 billion. To put the annual social cost of the U.S. tort system into perspective, it is equivalent to an 8-percent tax on consumption, a 13-percent tax on wages, the combined annual output of all six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), or the total annual sales of the U.S. restaurant industry. The annual price tag, or “tort tax,” for a family of four in terms of costs and foregone benefits is $9,827.

Can we send Minor the bill?

P.S. A sympathetic Houston Chronicle column on Lerach, who has retired. And a commentary from The Independent.

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