Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

There are several worthwhile, or, least interesting, things to note about this NY Times piece about class action suits. I think I will start with this: until fairly recently we didn't know much about the costs associated with this sort of litigation, or really any litigation, because the data wasn't there. Among the effects of not knowing much, I would contend, was a lot of damn fool legislation that came about as a result of purely anecdotal information. Anecdotal information, I am compelled to add, that came from parties which had an ax to grind, or an ox to gore. It seems to me that one of the first people I ever heard of who started to study what was actually going on in the courts using social science techniques was my friend Lucinda Finley, who has pretty much established that the tort system unfairly discounts women's personal injury claims, and thus demonstrated a systemic sexist bias in the legal system-- but if others got there first, I will happily revise this observation. In any event, Professor Finley is the one that showed me the data, and that has had a profound effect on the way I look at jurisprudential outcomes since.

I am a believer in the idea of the "private attorney general". I am, by training, a social scientist. It is interesting that the "science" of jurisprudence has been closed for as long as it has from the other social sciences, but that time seems to be coming to an end. I think that is a good thing.

The other thing that is notable about the class action study? It tends to establish that Orrin Hatch is a putz. As is the case often with social science studies, this is hardly a surprise-- Orin Hatch is quite possibly one of the worst US Senators ever, all-time . Still, it is always nice to see him caught in the headlights like this. I have been in the room and watched Hatch as he transforms into a gigantic green viper-- anybody who has read "The Silver Chair" need hear no more. This is a man who testified before Congress that giving the citizens of the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections would be the equivilant of granting electoral votes to minorities on the basis of their racial or ethnic status. Hatch is worse than a bigot-- he is a bigot who fancies himself a sort of intellectual. Anytime anything reveals him for what he is I am thankful for it.

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