Monday, June 25, 2007

A Lost Pair of Pants

By: Joe Watkins
President of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association

Reading and hearing about the D.C. Administrative Law Judge who is suing his dry cleaners over a pair of lost pants is distressing, to say the least. It's obviously ridiculous, but this lawsuit is not only silly -- it's dangerous.

Cases like this give lawyers a bad name. Big Business and others who are out to dismantle the Civil Justice System jump all over these tabloid-like stories as proof of why we need to eliminate corporate accountability. They say our legal system is out of control. One lawsuit like this one automatically makes every lawsuit "frivolous." And nothing could be farther from the truth.

As an attorney for 30 years and as President of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, I am aware of the dangers that this type of sensationalism can generate. The story is so far-fetched that the general public cannot help but be engrossed in its details.

What the public does not get to hear enough about are the everyday cases that go in front of judges and juries that uphold the Constitution's promise of justice for all. More truly newsworthy are cases that have assisted in pulling dangerous pharmaceuticals off the shelves of drugstores, cases that have forced clothing manufacturers to discontinue flammable children's pajamas, and cases that led to greater ingenuity in auto manufacturing when side-saddle gas tanks were found to be explosive. These are just a few instances among many where the Civil Justice System protects us all.

The public also rarely sees stories about the lawyers who are compassionate and generous community leaders. For example, Scott Delius, an Atlanta trial lawyer, is voluntarily serving in Afghanistan and assisting in the building of a criminal justice system there. He also has begun a charitable donation effort to collect clothes and toys for the Afghan children he has met. Gary Hays, another Atlanta trial lawyer, has done incredible fundraising for cancer research through his "I Will Make A Difference Campaign." Giving back to the community -- wherever that may be -- is a proud tradition of our profession.

The case of the missing pants most likely will continue to get press in the weeks to come as it awaits a hearing. When this ridiculous case gets before a judge, I am confident it will be dealt with in a manner that will make us proud of our Civil Justice System. Let's hope the media fully reports the result in this case, so that all can see, accurately and fairly, how our Civil Justice System truly works for us all.

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