"You've got to be kidding!"

That's how Nancy Pelosi responded when asked to cite the Constitutional authorization for federally mandated health insurance. Pelosi felt certain she was within the rules and was appalled to hear anyone suggest otherwise.

Pittsburgh asbestos attorney Robert Peirce undoubtedly had a similar reaction when a judge insisted that plaintiffs certify their awareness and affirm the facts of claims Peirce had made on their behalf. Like Pelosi, Peirce had played the legal game for so long that he apparently concluded he deserved to get his way in the courthouse.

It's possible to go far on arrogance and audacity, but eventually and inevitably, you go too far and get your comeuppance.

Both Pelosi and Peirce got a real taste of humble pie in 2010. Pelosi lost control of the House of Representatives and her speakership, while Peirce had two major setbacks in court.

Last June, Circuit Court Judge Arthur Recht dismissed, with prejudice, more than 1,400 asbestos claims filed by Peirce's firm. Unwilling or unable to comply with Recht's demand for certification of client awareness and claim substantiation, Peirce's firm moved to dismiss all but 64 claims.

Peirce's second setback came at the very end of 2010 when the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., reinstated a fraud case filed against his firm by CSX Transportation.

The suit, dismissed by a lower court misapplying the statute of limitations, alleges that Peirce's firm conspired with radiologist Ray Harron to fabricate asbestos claims. Harron lost his license in 2007 after a federal judge in Texas concluded that he had fabricated claims there.

Things are looking up in 2011. A Speaker of the House who needs to do remedial study of our nation's founding document has been removed from her position of respect and authority. An attorney used to having his way with the law now finds himself obliged to defend questionable actions.

This year is filled with promise.

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