Unrepresented Masses

     “Americans respond to their civil justice situations in a wide variety of ways, but this variety masks a powerful consistency: rarely do they turn to lawyers or courts for assistance.”
     The quote is from a report issued last week by the American Bar Foundation called “Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA: Findings from the Community Needs and Services Study.”
     You’d think something with that long a title would be pretty intimidating, but in fact it’s only 17 pages long – and two of those pages are the title and a table of contents.
     As an advocate of getting to the point, I found this admirable. And the point is that most people have legal problems but they don’t rush off to lawyers to solve them.
     In fact, said the report, “In a nation of over 316 million people, these (problem) rates represent a tremendous amount of civil justice activity – tens of millions of civil justice situations.” Yet only a small percentage turn to lawyers.
     Sixteen percent of the people with problems said they “did nothing.” The biggest percentage “employed self-help.” (This may entail gun battles.)
     Why not go to court?
     “(T)he most common reason given was that they did not see the need.”
     What are we supposed to conclude from this?
     Well, all the study concludes is that we ought to have a “broad discussion.”
     So let’s discuss.
     Should tens of millions of people be rushing out to hire lawyers?
     Right now I’m picturing judges cringing and lawyers salivating.
     The obvious solution to this problem (if it’s a problem) is mass marketing and convenience.
     Think Wal-Mart legal kiosks and Starbucks representation gift cards.
     A free latte should be enough to lure the opposition to coffeehouse arbitration.
     Come on, mass marketers – there are millions of civil justice situations to exploit out there.
     
     Don’t do that: Sometimes it’s best to tell your client not to take a risk.
     This came to mind as I spotted a ruling from a New York Supreme Court Appellate Division panel last week that could have been an updated version of the ancient, classic doctor joke.
     You know the one – a guy tells his doctor that it hurts when he does this (you can fill in the blank).
     Doctor says” “Don’t do that.”
     Now read Matter of Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Aubertine.
     One of the plaintiffs “is a New York resident who occasionally consumes foie gras, but is allegedly concerned that foie gras from force-fed animals increases the risk that he will develop a medical condition known as secondary amyloidosis.”
     So maybe he shouldn’t eat foie gras?
     Apparently, he can’t help eating it if it’s allowed to be sold.
     Or maybe what’s happening here is that the guy can’t help suing.
     The flesh is weak.
     
     Cause and effect: It may be that pot is the answer to many of our problems.
     A Washington Post writer last week reported that since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, traffic fatalities in that state have declined. Apparently, there are similar statistics in other states that allow “medical” marijuana.
     The writer doesn’t offer an explanation for this other than the theory that, maybe, pot smokers drink less. I don’t think that makes a lot of sense – driving high doesn’t strike me as particularly safer than driving drunk.
     I have alternate theories.
     The obvious one is: Why would you want to drive anywhere if you’re feeling that good? You’re probably at home or at a party and not a bar anyway.
     No self-respecting pothead is going to want to get into a bland, monotone car. First, it’s got to be spray-painted and then there need to be these fire-breathing scaly dragons on the hood and maybe a daffodil garden on the roof and something spinning and shiny on the antenna.
     By the time you’re done tricking out the wheels, you’re sober. And no other car will go near you.
     Or maybe you’re too busy giggling to get behind a steering wheel.
     Now extrapolate this wonderful situation to other arenas.
     Would Congress get more or less done if marijuana was passed around during sessions? Wouldn’t there be some reaching and rolling around across the aisles?
     Would wars be fought?
     Consider bombing the Middle East with roaches (yes, roach bombs).
     There could be peace in our time.
     And fewer civil justice situations.

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