I have a confession to make. On many occasions, I have been one of those people who have ridiculed people for no other reason than that they’ve been lawyers. I have generalized about them as if they were all a pack of ambulance chasers or, worse yet, politicians — or, worst of all, ambulance-chasing politicians such as John Edwards.
But, it’s just not fair and I apologize. After all, many lawyers serve a useful function as they go about drawing up contracts and wills. However, that being said, I wouldn’t want any of you to assume that this is to be taken as my mea culpa to the entire legal profession. There are still any number of law school grads who could teach snakes how to crawl. There are still criminal defense attorneys who, while paying lip service to the notion that everyone deserves the best defense money can buy, will devote their lives to bamboozling juries into letting rapists, pedophiles, and serial killers go free.
To make matters worse, you will rarely if ever hear one member of the American Bar Association utter a single discouraging word about one of his disreputable colleagues unless they’re facing off in an election.
Recently, I read about two lawsuits that were so infuriating that I found myself harboring second thoughts about going ahead with this apology. In the first case, the attorney’s name is Daniel Becnel, Jr. I’m just glad that my name isn’t Daniel Becnel, Sr. It seems that of the 489,000 claims that have been filed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he is responsible for 60,000 of them! Asked about measuring Katrina’s devastation in terms of dollars and cents, Mr. Becnel replied, “There’s no way on earth you can figure it out. The trauma these people have undergone is unlike anything that has occurred in the history of our country.”
Even allowing for a certain amount of legalistic hyperbole, that is one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in quite a while. I suppose in the heat of the moment, and perhaps distracted by the amount of loot he’s likely to see when those 60,000 cases are settled, he must have forgotten the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11, just to mention a few of the more notable traumas that spring to mind.
Of the 489,000 claims, 247 are for at least a billion dollars. But that’s nothing. One of them is for $3,014,170,389,176,410. Having been to New Orleans on a couple of occasions, I can only assume that the actual value of the dwelling was $410, and that the remaining $3,014,170,389,176,000 is just for the heck of it.
Speaking of John Edwards, I bet when he saw those kinds of numbers being bandied about, he regretted wasting his time running for president.
The part that annoys me the most about these lawsuits is that they’ve been filed against the federal government in spite of the fact that during LBJ’s administration the Army Corps of Engineers was ready and eager to repair New Orleans levees until a bunch of tree-hugging busybodies got an injunction to prevent the work being done. As usual, their only concern was that it might have disrupted the plant or animal life in the immediate vicinity. It seems to me they’re the folks who should be sued.
The other case involves a guy in Colorado named Scott A. Gomez. I haven’t been able to track down the name of the lawyer who’s handling his case, but Mr. Gomez, who was incarcerated in Pueblo County Jail on a weapons-related charge, had already broken out once before. Quickly recaptured, he decided to try again in January 2007. He and a fellow inmate broke through a tile ceiling in the shower, climbed through the opening, and made their way through a shaft to the roof. So far, the plan worked like a charm. But when Gomez tried to descend 85 feet to the ground using a makeshift ladder of bed sheets and mattress covers, he fell the final 40 feet, as Wile E. Coyote could have predicted.
His lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money, contends that the authorities are responsible for his hurting himself because they made it too doggone easy to escape.
The fact of the matter, at least in this court’s opinion, is that they only made the first part easy. Clearly, they made the last 40 feet very hard indeed.
Television writer Burt Prelutsky is the author of Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco (101 Reasons Why I’m Happy I Left the Left).