A National Shame - Our Emperor May Come To Have No Clothes

Thursday, November 1, 2007 - 01:00

We complain about the soaring cost of outside counsel as litigation against our corporate clients proliferates. The stakes in litigation are such that we demand the best and the brightest outside counsel to defend us. In the heat of the competition for that very special lawyer, the cost of being represented by that star who can produce a winning result rises. In turn, the law firms that seek to represent us offer to talented law school graduates compensation exceeding that received by many trial court judges.

The reality may be that those stars whom we pay so much to perform for us may come before a forum that doesn't understand the plot, may be so biased or intimidated that it ignores it, or is distracted by fear of being attacked or because the roof is leaking. That's not a bad analogy for what the courts may become if the current problems are not addressed. Yes, Dorothy, the rule of law - our professed emperor - may in fact come to have no clothes.

We are fortunate that DRI has issued a wake-up call and that it and the large audience whose attention it can get are being mobilized to address current problems impairing judicial independence. As John Martin, DRI's new president, says in his cover story in this month's issue, these problems include inadequate judicial salaries, inadequate court funding, lax court security, unjustified media attacks on the judiciary, large campaign contributions and too little focus on merit in the selection of judges.

If you are truly interested in the independence of the judiciary and reducing the exploding costs of litigation, you may wish to consider encouraging your company to consider ways it can implement DRI's recommendations. Your company can educate its employees and local communities about the importance of an independent judiciary. It can enlist its government relations department in the effort as well as the national and local business organizations that it supports.

Yes, Dorothy, we can provide the emperor with a splendid new suit of clothes if only our companies join in the effort.

Al Driver, Editor