Why? Because Judge Wilson said so

By The West Virginia Record | Jan 9, 2009

We may never know how many hours each lawyer worked on the case.

We may never know how many hours each lawyer worked on the case.

Still, Ohio Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson has ruled $3.9 million is "adequate" compensation for six trial lawyers representing the state. They secured a $12.2 million state sales tax holiday on appliances out of credit card networks Visa and Mastercard.

When Wilson said $3.9 million was "adequate," he was trying to be persuasive. Critics of the bloated fee paid in cold cash considered his tactics obstructionist.

The lawyers end? $3.9 million divided by six is $650,000 a lawyer.

The citizens cut? $12.2 million divided by about 1.8 million West Virginians is around $6.66 each. And that's only if you bought an appliance during the proscribed time period.

The math made some people curious. Especially activist Steve Cohen, who personally protested the fees in Judge Wilson's court, demanding someone at least provide an accounting of who did what and when before the state shelled out this cash.

Like the rest of us, Cohen is a member of the statewide "class" on whose behalf these lawyers sued Visa and Mastercard.

But Wilson would have none of it, upbraiding Cohen in his December fees order for asking for an accounting of work performed, and offering non-lawyer opinions on legal matters.

The judge also criticized Cohen's organization, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, as "mean-spirited" and "antagonistic" rather than "rational" in its criticism of West Virginia's legal system.

Wilson closed with a dose of "rationality" fit for a dictatorship: there will be no public accounting of the millions in fees, thank you. And he suggested we citizens ought to stop asking questions and start being more grateful.

"West Virginians need to understand that we need to provide lawyers with a sufficient incentive to take cases like this to advocate zealously for our interests," Wilson wrote.

Or maybe we don't.

Judge Wilson needs to understand he answers to the people of this state, not just to its legions of lawyers. And his demands of loyalty to the powers-that-be -- what he calls "rational" criticism of our justice system -- are embarrassing. What you have is a judge criticizing a citizen exerting his constitutional right to petition our government? Is West Virginia in the U.S. or Venezuela?

Wilson's browbeating and sanctimony from the bench isn't just intellectually amateur, it's unbecoming of a man we count on to uphold the public trust.

One has to wonder -- if he doesn't think it is OK for Mr. Cohen to criticize our courts, does Judge Wilson remember the words of the First Amendment of the Constitution?

If he feels the need to serve as the plaintiff lawyer's advocate, Judge Wilson should step down and become one. But if he's going to keep wearing that robe, impartiality and respect for the principles on which this country was founded would be a worthwhile goal.

More News

The Record Network