Jewish World Review July 9, 2004 / 20 Tamuz 5764

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Consumer Reports

The Runaway Trial Lawyer | In 'The Runaway Jury," a best selling Doubleday book in 1996 and hit movie in 2003, lawyer novelist John Grisham, allows us inside the dark shoddy corner of the courthouse back room.

They say that California leads the way for our other states.

Unfortunately, much of it is bad particularly when it comes to the legal mob. So, if it hasn't hit your state yet - highly unlikely - be on the lookout for trial lawyer legislators who represent only themselves.

In "The Orange County," we have a trial attorney turned State Senator that makes Grisham's characters - like Gene Hackman - look like amateurs. Enter Joe Dunn as a pristine caricature of himself regally adorned in a rich blue suit and tie with the perfect up-top dimple.

Dunn, (D-Santa Ana), 34th Senate District, made big millions as a personal injury malpractice attorney. Then having more money than a human could ever desire parlayed the bucks into a run for the California legislature and won.

He allegedly represents the people of Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Stanton and Westminster up north in Sacramento.

While in Sacramento, his salary and expenses paid for by those in Orange County, Dunn has been unrelenting in his pursuit to lobby for more bills that create more lawsuits and money for his trial lawyer brethren.

As we noted last week the undivided history of the trial lawyers in California has been to create more bills and laws that allow more clients and entities to sue more people and entities for more reasons for more money and greater damages and for longer periods of time.

"The Orange County Business Council maintains a cordial but cautious relationship with Senator Dunn," said Julie Puentes, Executive Vice President Public Affairs. "He tells you he favors business and then goes to Sacramento and introduces trial lawyer bills that destroy business. Business has good reason to worry about legislation authored by Senator Dunn, and we know we cannot count on his vote if the trial lawyers are on the other side of the issue."

Here are just a few of the "Trial Lawyers Employment and Enrichment" bills he proposed:

  • SB 796 (Dunn) Employment: Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. Allows private rights of action by employees to recover penalties for violations of the Labor Code that have not been collected by the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Known as "Sue Your Boss" this is a bill that allows an employee to sue their boss for technical labor violations where no harm ever occurred. A mistakenly out of date elevator permit could cost an employer $16 million dollars in damages.

  • SB 211 (Dunn) Residential care facilities for the elderly: This bill attempted to prohibit an agreement to arbitrate future disputes from being included in any agreement for admission to a residential care facility for the elderly. Dunn wanted to prohibit arbitration - or non-judicial resolution - for problems related to senior housing - forcing issues into expensive court proceedings where only trial lawyers would profit.

  • SB 1569 (Dunn) Provider remedies: Senator Dunn also authored legislation allowing doctors to sue HMO's for unpaid medical claims. While we are all for physicians and everyone else being paid fairly for their work - this would create an avalanche of unintended consequences.

In real life these court actions only trigger retaliatory filings by HMO's thereby adding more costs for less care for the patient. All-the-while creating hundreds of millions for the trial lawyers - and perchance a certificate for a black bag for the physicians - likely vinyl not leather!

Let's explain how the system really works in Sacramento and many state legislatures. Why would Dunn care now that he is no longer a practicing trial attorney? Because in California as in the rest of the nation there are no limits or restrictions on going back and forth between lawyer, legislator or judge. This leaves bountiful room for hanky-panky and back room deals.

In England, laws do not allow for these back and forth incestuous relationships. Once you are a Solicitor, advance to Barrister status and then cross over to Judge you cannot go back.

A friend and colleague of these writers, Theodore Dalryimple, English author and commentary writer - considered by many editors to be the world's best medical writer - told us at a recent national meeting, "It is this 'pot of gold' at the end of the rainbow mentality that makes the American legal and malpractice system corrupt in my opinion."

State legislators are presumably elected to benefit the people of their state. Yet, California State Senator Joe Dunn continues to promote legislation that mainly benefits personal injury attorneys who contribute big bucks for colossal returns on their investments.

Let this be one of the first bursts across the bow that tells the people Joe Dunn's true nature and also informs this non-average Joe we don't want any more self serving trial lawyers as our representatives. When you elect scorpions you eventually get stung.

It is a time to be done of Dunn and others like him. Eight years of special primping, preening and grooming for the trial lawyers is enough!

Cautions Maryann Maloney, Executive Director of Orange County Citizens Against law Suit Abuse(OC CALA), "Everything Dunn does is oriented to get himself elected Attorney General in 2006!"

To Dunn and those like him we should all say, "You're fired!" This 4th of July week let's declare our freedom and independence from these "runaway lawyers."

And — as you've probably heard — the Democrats announced that trial lawyer turned U.S. Senator, John Edwards, is their VP candidate. So it's crucial to resist this "East Trial Lawyer Fever" before it infects us all!

Editor's Note: Michael Arnold Glueck wrote this week's column.

Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., is a multiple award winning writer who comments on medical-legal issues. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., is a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and a past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Comment by clicking here.


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