In defense of Dewey, Cheatem & Howe
A lawyer's concerns about lawsuits could help block the sale of a law school.
No, civil justice.
As reported on our front page Tuesday, the Committee on Academic Affairs and Licensing recommended Monday that the S.C. Commission on Higher Education reject InfiLaw's application for a license to operate the Charleston School of Law.
From that article: "A majority of the committee agreed with Natasha Hanna, a Myrtle Beach attorney who serves on the commission, that lawsuits against two of the company's schools could pose problems for the entity down the road."
But though that committee, which is part of the CHE, voted by a 3-1 margin to advise against giving InfiLaw that license, the CHE staff earlier said it was OK with the for-profit company's purchase of CSOL.
So sue me.
Just kidding. After all, we need comic relief from rampant litigiousness.
For instance, Britain's satirical magazine Private Eye regularly features the mock law firm "Sue, Grabbit & Runne."
Of course, soaring U.S. medical malpractice rates over the last few decades and other costly side-effects of suing fever are not laughing matters.
National Football League tickets might even cost more soon if it has to keep paying huge sums to former players claiming long-term health problems as a result of not just concussions but teams' negligence of their needs.
Among the allegations in a class-action suit filed against the NFL this week: Team doctors regularly gave players addictive pain killers without warning them of the dangers, and even lied to players about the severity of their injuries to keep them on the field.
Playing for high stakes
The inherent lie of big-time college sports - that it's an "amateur" enterprise played by "student-athletes" - is also being tested in court.
Will schools already paying coaches millions soon have to start paying players, too?
Then again, so does the "nonprofit" status of the NCAA.
And while many lawsuits also sound far-fetched, we still need lawyers, judges and at times juries to sort out such frequently uncivil civil disputes.
Two fresh local examples:
Wednesday's Post and Courier reported that a federal judge has removed Citadel President John Rosa and the school's general counsel, Mark Brandenburg, as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the parents of a boy abused by serial molester Louis "Skip" ReVille.
The Citadel is now the lone defendant in that suit, which alleges that the school failed to report a 2007 complaint about ReVille by a former camper to the police.
And Thursday's paper reported a jury's $1 million verdict - reduced to $300,000 by the S.C. tort law cap - against Dorchester District 2 in a suit filed by a former vice principal (and current teacher). That judgment faulted the district for "improperly demoting her following 2009 accusations that she failed to report alleged abuse of autistic students by a teacher's assistant."
See, not lawsuits abuse reason. Some even deliver at least some level of fairness.
Plus, the liability threat, while financially expensive, motivates businesses, including motor vehicle and drug manufacturers, to make their products safe.
So before finding all lawyers filing (and wearing) suits guilty of first-degree avarice, remember that we need them for an effective civil justice system.
And as pointed out in this space four weeks ago, we need criminal defense attorneys to defend criminal suspects.
OK, so it's a shame that rising dread of being sued has made sliding boards, at least tall ones, obsolete on most U.S. playgrounds.
Another shame is this smoking-gun 1998 evidence of personal responsibility's still-accelerating modern retreat:
Big Tobacco agreed to pay the states $246 billion over 25 years for selling a legal product clearly marked with health warning labels since 1966.
Now ponder the enduring wisdom of this 1973 hit R&B single written by Mack Rice and sung by "Jukin' Johnnie" Taylor:
"Cheaper to Keep Her."
From a story in Thursday's New York Daily News:
"The 'fertilizer king' stepped in it big time. Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev - who was just slapped with a record $4.8 billion divorce judgment - reneged on a deal to settle the case for a relatively measly $1 billion last year."
The Daily News also put it well in 1991 with this headline on the first Mrs. Trump's decision to legally fight the $25 million pre-nup she had signed with "The Donald":
"Ivana Better Deal."
So if you want a better deal in the civil justice system, get a better lawyer than the people suing, or being sued by, you.
Just don't count on finding a divorce law firm with a better name that this one, borrowed from the pretty-good 2012 movie "The Three Stooges":
"Ditcher, Quick & Hyde."
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.