Judge Seibert stands tall
News Service Jun. 5, 2009, 10:45am
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil," said British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke, "is that good men do nothing." Which raises the question: Why do good men do nothing?
Why do good members of a profession often do nothing when others engage in unethical or illegal activity? Why do good mechanics not speak out against bad mechanics, good policemen against bad policemen, good doctors against bad doctors, good lawyers against bad lawyers?
Solidarity explains some of it -- the idea that all are in the same boat. Us against them. The need to stick together. Circle the wagons. Damage control.
Shame or fear of shame, also comes into play. Like families reluctant to talk about the black sheep, professionals worry that exposing the misdeeds of one will tarnish the good name of all.
Others fear retribution from the miscreants, or ostracism for breaking the code of silence.
Whatever the reason, it takes a courageous person to speak out against abuses in his own profession. Without such a person coming forward evil can triumph.
After years of being targeted for dubious asbestos claims, CSX Transportation went on the offensive, suing Dr. Ray Harron, the Bridgeport radiologist accused of fabricating diagnoses on behalf of Pittsburgh lawyer Robert Peirce and his clients. (Peirce's curious career has been chronicled regularly in The Record.)
The plaintiffs are now the defendants and seem to have lost fervor for fact-finding. Recently, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Seibert threatened sanctions against Harron and Peirce for their refusal to answer CSX questions.
"Simply put, a lawyer or law firm may not engage in fraudulent or criminal activity and then hide behind any privilege to protect the firm's or the individual lawyer's interest," Seibert wrote on May 29, ordering Peirce's firm to produce correspondence with client Earl Baylor.
If more of Judge Seibert's colleagues followed his example, there could be fewer frivolous and fraudulent law suits clogging our courts in an attempt to exact tribute from American businesses. There also could be fewer bad lawyers whose shady shenanigans would go unrewarded.
When good men do something, evil is thwarted.