Lawyers Write Law, And Then Are The Only Ones To Make Millions Directly Off Of It

from the regulatory-capture-and-rent-seeking dept

It's difficult not to become even more cynical when you read stories like the following one. Sent in by Eric Goldman, it's about a state law in California that was mainly written by two lawyers: Joaquin Avila, a law professor from Seattle, and Robert Rubin, the "legal director" for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. So, here's the interesting thing: since this state law has been put in place (seven years ago), the only lawsuits have been brought by Rubin's committee or Avila and they've made themselves over $4 million with a few more lawsuits pending and a bunch more threatened (again, all from either Avila or Rubin's committee).

What a great deal: write a law, and then be the only lawyers to use the law to make millions.

As for the law itself, it was a law that apparently very few people were asking for -- requiring that state courts carve out specific districts that favor minority groups, so they are not excluded from local elections. Here's how the AP describes it:
The California statute targets commonly used "at-large" elections -- those in which candidates run citywide or across an entire school district. Avila said that method can result in discrimination because whatever group constitutes the majority of voters can dominate the ballot box and block minorities from winning representation. As a remedy, the law empowers state courts to create smaller election districts favoring minority candidates.

Officials in several California communities said they never heard complaints of voter discrimination until the lawyers stepped forward. In one case, the Tulare Local Healthcare District, now known as Tulare Regional Medical Center, was sued even though its five-member governing board is a rainbow of diversity -- two emigres from India, a Hispanic, a black and a white. The lawsuit argues Hispanics, who make up about a third of local voters, have been shortchanged.
Of course, there are many reasons why the exact makeup of a governing board might not match the exact percentage of the population (including the simple fact that most people vote on issues, not the ethnicity of the people they're voting for). But, even if there was a problem it seems highly questionable that the two lawyers who wrote the bill are now profiting tremendously from it and appear to be the only ones who do so.

It's stories like this one that make us so nervous about so much legislation. This is the type of law they create: it maysound good (who's going to argue against diversity?). But, the actual law appears to have been nothing more than a way for these lawyers to go around collecting millions, while disrupting communities and schoolboards, and sending their taxpayer money to these lawyers.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:17am

    That's California for you. I live here so I have to put up with it.

     

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  2.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns
    -Mario Puzo

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:30am

    Michael, open up a forum where your readers can send in examples of this exact scenario played out across the country.. I know of at least one other situation in South FL where one firm pushed for wildlife preservation laws in the Okeechobee at various local and state levels, to protect some critter. I cant remember which one but I do remember it was not actually an dangered species but the law did nothing to protect it what do ever. It has since bilked millions from..wait for it ... SCHOOL districts (in Florida where kids still use an abacus) among other public works. Every suit filed was brought by the same firm that lobbied for the law.. not because their the only blood suckers that went after the free money, but because they were the only firm "licensed" to go after it!!

    Can we format our nation and install Linux?

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    "Can we format our nation and install Linux?"

    HA! That's GOT to be Comment of the Day material....

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    But the law is the most important thing ever invented by mankind. What's more important than the law?

    That's right! More laws! Because if the law is right then surely, more laws would be righter!

    We need more laws. Hundreds, no thousands, no millions of more laws. We need more lawyers!

    That's what the world needs more lawyers. And more intellectual property laws. Yeah.

    Hey, you know what's weird? Real, tangible propery is taxed but intellectual property isn't taxed. I wonder why?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Ryan, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:38am

    Re:

    That's the whole country for you, sadly. Powerful people playing the race card for a cause celebre to make money or more power.

    It's stories like this one that make us so nervous about so much legislation. This is the type of law they create: it maysound good (who's going to argue against diversity?). But, the actual law appears to have been nothing more than a way for these lawyers to go around collecting millions, while disrupting communities and schoolboards, and sending their taxpayer money to these lawyers.

    This is virtually every law created anymore. Let's throw more money and regulation into IP laws, it sounds good to say we're promoting innovation. Let's throw more money into bad school systems(everybody wants to help the kids), or home ownership programs(loans for everybody!), or health care(everyone gets the royal treatment).

    Then all that money fills the coffers of teacher unions and pharmaceutical companies(with a kickback to the politicians) and everyone else gets screwed.

     

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  7.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Democracy

    > that method can result in discrimination because
    > whatever group constitutes the majority of
    > voters can dominate the ballot box

    Yeah, heaven forbid the majority of the voters have their say in a democracy.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    CastorTroy-Libertarian, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re:

    VOTE NUMBER 2... love it...
    Im going to make a shirt :)

     

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  9.  
    icon
    senshikaze (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    Re:

    No driver support for stupidity. I heard the kernel devs were going to work on it, though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Tony (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Lawyers, Government and Politics

    Not directly related, but something I have been pondering.
    Does anyone out there know of ANYBODY who has filed for Social Security disability that has NOT been denied?

    Prior to hiring a lawyer. I don't.

    My mom was denied twice. I know a handful of folks personally, all denied. Until they hired a lawyer. TV is flooded with commercials about hiring a lawyer so you too can get your SS disability claim approved.
    Why must you hire a lawyer to get help from the US Gov't program you are forced to pay into?

    Lot of lawyers making money fighting a system made by politicians who started out as lawyers...

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    TDR, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Rufio said it best: "Kill the lawyer!" ^_~

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    big al, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    ip lawers ect.

    hummmmm an interesting idea.. if you own a copyright or a patent and sue someone for ummmm $200,000,000.00 then you have declared that that is the min. value of the REAL propriety that you own and expect this to earn you this amount of $$$ at some point in time... taxes MUST be pair..
    a partial solution to several problems.....lol

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    thinkabout, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    End conflict of interest in Washington

    Typically when a person stands to gain unwarranted advantage, influence or wealth by participating in an activity from a privileged position, that person should recuse themselves to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

    Following this logic, all lawyers should be directly barred from voting for new laws.

    Who stands to gain, directly and indirectly, from all forms of legislation, regulation and bureaucracy? Who increases their power and wealth by expanding the power and influence of government at all levels?

    You guessed it -> lawyers.

    I propose that we can directly advance the causes of individual liberty, freedom and personal responsibility by electing doctors, scientists and engineers to government. Actually, anyone who is not a lawyer will do. If there were a diversity of professions represented in the legislature, then individual members could and should abstain when a conflict of interest would bring undue advantage to their particular profession. When these people's elected terms as public servants expire they can return to gainful employment in the private sector.

    What do elected lawyers do when their turns are up? They become lobbyists. Or they are paid to litigate the legal issues arising directly as a consequence of their increases in the powers and responsibilities of government.

    I believe that this conflict of interest is the root cause of our ever-expanding, overreaching and coercive government. All lawyers benefit, directly and indirectly, from the passage of new laws. Lawyers in government have an inherent self-interest in increasing government intrusion and regulation through new legislation. The writing of new laws perpetuates and increases the power, wealth and influence of lawyers as a group. This is done to the detriment of all who would be free.

    End the conflict of interest. Stop electing lawyers to government!

    Some laws benefit everyone.
    Some laws benefit a few.
    All laws benefit lawyers.
    Do all laws benefit you?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Re: Democracy

    Yeah, heaven forbid the majority of the voters have their say in a democracy.

    Yeah, what's wrong with two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner anyway?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Democracy

    Sadly, your analogy falls apart at the wolves voting, there arent natually ocurring voting booths.

    Unless you want to greatly expand your analogy its just silly when you compare that situation to human communities voting.

    Unless your point is that the majority shouldn't get to vote? I missed your point whatever it was.

     

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  16.  
    icon
    zcat (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    "our society ironically treats limited resources as endless, and endless resources as limited."

    Not mine, not even sure where it came from, but it's totally true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    interval, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Its disgraceful. And lawyers wonder why they are the butt of jokes. I'm familiar with the area, its between Fresno, CA, and Bakersfield, CA; some the poorest counties (but some of the richest farmland in the country, interestingly) in California are (of course) the target of these two thieves. Once again the people who can least afford it (and unable to defend themselves) are victimized by a pair of snakes.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    interval, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Lawyers, Government and Politics

    Why do you think this so-called health care reform push pays only light lip-service to tort reform. Its like asking the wolves not to hit the chicken coop so hard.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:16pm

    Lawyers

    Did anyone, besides me, ever wonder why the law is written so only lawyers can understand it? This is done specifically so lawyers can charge hundreds of dollars for writing a letter. Really! God help you if you need real legal help! There are a few occupations that should be turned into public servant positions. The job of attorney is one of them. Take the money out of the equation and that will help remove the leech. Of course I don't even want to think about what would happen if all the lawyers worked for the government...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Democracy

    Sadly, your analogy falls apart at the wolves voting

    Heh, you wish.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    BobHansen, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Democracy

    Yeah, what's wrong with two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner anyway?

    Anything else is two wolves and a lamb eating grass for dinner.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Democracy

    "Anything else is two wolves and a lamb eating grass for dinner."

    Exactly, that's what lambs (minorities) are for, to get eaten. Anything else just goes against the laws of nature and it's stupid to try to outlaw it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 17th, 2009 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Democracy

    "Exactly, that's what lambs (minorities) are for, to get eaten. Anything else just goes against the laws of nature and it's stupid to try to outlaw it."

    I am seriously laughing like a hyena at that comment. Dear Lord, if you are indeed out there, please make it so that this was an awesoe attempt at either sarcasm or trolling and we do not in fact have Rush Limbaugh posting comments these days...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Mary Ann Ludwig, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 5:15pm

    Diversity at the point og a gun...

    We need to stop all this nonsense right now! All we need to know is whether or not the people running in an election are Americans (citizens). Then all we need to know is whether or not the voters are Americans. Any other designation is completely irrelevant. No "minorities", no hyphenates, just Americans. E pluribus unum not "from one, a whole bunch". Lawyers are the scourge of this nation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Marco Paolo, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    Who to vote for

    The law seems to assume that minorities will automatically vote for someone who is of the same race. If this were true then the people elected would reflect the make up of the population. Unless I'm missing something.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 3:49am

    Oppose diversity?

    I will. Having a diverse panel or any sort of diversity/minority presence doesn't mean anything. You'll either have them pushing agendas to help "their people" or they will do their job and represent everyone.

    How is having a bunch of minorities included going to make a difference? Nowadays, white people (generally speaking) are so scared of being called "racist" that they will bend over backwards to help minorities. Look at the push for illegal immigrants to get welfare, social security, free education, etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Can we format our nation and install Linux?"

    + 1000! I love it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Civil Rights Activist, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Non-Profit, Civil Rights Lawyers Making $$$? That Doesn't Make Much Sense...

    Both of these lawyers being attacked are non-profit, civil rights lawyers. For all of you out there who do not understand what that means, it means that the lawyers actually see very little, to none, of the money being collected. All of the money received from lawsuits are put right back into the system in order to continue to ensure civil rights. These lawyers are working for civil rights on very little money, and it is unfortunate that the best acknowledgment they receive is an accusation of receiving non-existent millions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Tullio Pascoli, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    EARLY LIBERALISM

    Dear friends:

    Here are a few lines to share, of what quite possibly could be the longest listing on the Web for LIBERAL AUTHORS AND THEIR WORKS. In spite of being designed and written in Italian; inquiring minds will find books of various free thinkers who have displayed some of the most distinguished schools of thought ever recorded.

    It is very easy to access the files: just click on any of the individual names here below and one will be directed to a related page illustrating most of their works - if not all of them:

    www.dataplug.net

    The idea is to bring together a new paradigm: as not all intellectuals and thinkers were or are "left" guided. As a matter of fact, before Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher produced the final shove against the wall of shame in Berlin, causing the fatal collapse of the Marxist utopia, the indoctrinated followers of that deleterious “faith” had succeeded to build a myth, according to which only militants of the egalitarian ideology could have entered into the selected Pantheon of their legitimated intellectuality.

    Thus, our list of liberal authors, pretends to redeem the ambiguous subterfuge and brings together approximately 450 authors and almost 1,500 of their works, who were inspired to share their individual liberties and freedom.

    I must recognize that some of the authors mentioned do not achieve unanimous consensus; but it is not easy either to determine any limit on tolerance, so I hope not to be wrong for having and not having excluded some, while I have included others based on suggestions of a few readers.

    I am aware that this list is not perfect, and I do encourage readers to contribute and suggest more authors and their works. Maybe there are those who share the idea that it is useful to reduce the dominion of a leftist culture, while at the same time, may help to spread these efforts among all lovers of Freedom.

    Thank you in advance,

    Tullio Pascoli

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Tullio Pascoli, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    EARLY LIBERALISM

    Dear friends:

    Here are a few lines to share, of what quite possibly could be the longest listing on the Web for LIBERAL AUTHORS AND THEIR WORKS. In spite of being designed and written in Italian; inquiring minds will find books of various free thinkers who have displayed some of the most distinguished schools of thought ever recorded.

    It is very easy to access the files: just click on any of the individual names here below and one will be directed to a related page illustrating most of their works - if not all of them:

    www.dataplug.net

    The idea is to bring together a new paradigm: as not all intellectuals and thinkers were or are "left" guided. As a matter of fact, before Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher produced the final shove against the wall of shame in Berlin, causing the fatal collapse of the Marxist utopia, the indoctrinated followers of that deleterious “faith” had succeeded to build a myth, according to which only militants of the egalitarian ideology could have entered into the selected Pantheon of their legitimated intellectuality.

    Thus, our list of liberal authors, pretends to redeem the ambiguous subterfuge and brings together approximately 450 authors and almost 1,500 of their works, who were inspired to share their individual liberties and freedom.

    I must recognize that some of the authors mentioned do not achieve unanimous consensus; but it is not easy either to determine any limit on tolerance, so I hope not to be wrong for having and not having excluded some, while I have included others based on suggestions of a few readers.

    I am aware that this list is not perfect, and I do encourage readers to contribute and suggest more authors and their works. Maybe there are those who share the idea that it is useful to reduce the dominion of a leftist culture, while at the same time, may help to spread these efforts among all lovers of Freedom.

    Thank you in advance,

    Tullio Pascoli

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 9:13pm

    The ignorance masquerading as insight here astounds me...

    To be clear, it is entirely possible that there is some self-serving going on with the CA Voting Rights Act. The statute was drafted either very carelessly or very carefully.

    But all the lawyer hate is unwarranted and simple-minded. There are saints and sinners in every profession, and for every greedy attorney doing and arguing whatever brings in the money there is a public interest attorney with honorable convictions and a devotion to helping others even if it means making like $40,000 a year.

    The notion that statutes are drafted in legalese so that people have to hire lawyers to translate betrays the poster's dearth of knowledge about how our common law system works and has always worked.

    The suggestion that lawyers not be elected because they have inherent conflict since they stand to benefit (from every law, really?) is even more absurd (note this is distinct from revolving door lobbyist-legislator-etc problem). By that logic, the legislators in the top tax brackets shouldn't be voting to lower taxes for the wealthy.

    Back to the CA Voting Rights Act. The AP did a pitiful job explaining it. At-large elections for things like a 5-person City Council have historically been used to submerge minority groups who comprise a great enough share (say 20%) of the city population that they would be able to elect a "candidate of choice" if the city drew five single-member districts (where only people within each district elect the rep from that district) instead of having all five seats elected by the entire city. All VRA-type legislation require racially polarized voting to establish a violation among other things. And the problems with at-large systems are not just about race. In a city that is 60% Democrat, the 40% that are Republican or independent will often get NO representation on the City Council.

    And yes, heaven forbid that there not be tyranny of the majority or mob rule. And heaven forbid that we have truly representative democracy.

    Not saying the CA Voting Rights Act is the best way of advancing these goals because it's very flawed. Just want you all to know how off-base this visceral hatefest is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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