Out for "Justice"

By The West Virginia Record | Jul 14, 2006

Actions speak louder than words.

While pondering a hopeful, image-enhancing name change at their annual confab in Seattle this week, members of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America might take that wise old adage to heart.

The group's president, Ken Suggs, wants to recast it as the "American Association for Justice." But he should be warned -- mere euphemism won't veil the crass greed that so many associate with the plaintiff's bar.

"The insurance companies, the big oil and drug companies and their CEOs have spent billions of dollars to define us," wrote Suggs in a recent plea to his membership. "The name of our association must be about what we do, not who are members are."

To the contrary, despite their blame game, it's been precisely their own behavior -- what they do -- that's transformed the term "trial lawyer" from straight-forward descriptive into a pejorative slur.

Suggs should think what the average West Virginian thought, for instance, reading our reporting on the $208,333.31 taxpayer-funded checks cut to Charleston trial lawyers David Brumfield and William Druckman for "legal fees" in the Purdue Pharma lawsuit debacle last Christmas. Lest one think they came cheap, it was merely a first installment -- fully $3.3 million of the state's $10 million settlement in the case went to the lawyers.

Have you ever received a check for more than $200 grand?

Neither have we. But the rest of us have our own way of describing folks who get one the way these guys did. We have our own terminology to describe people who claim they're "fighting for us," when all they really care about is ensuring their own inflated paydays. Call it real, genuine profanity -- now projected onto the reputation of profession that truly worked hard to earn it.

So long as trial lawyers continue their wholesale abuse of our civil justice system, refusing to police their own, they'll never rebrand their way to redemption.

But they will continue to get rich. Here's guessing most of them are just fine with the trade-off.

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