Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This Just In: Legal Ethics Ain't What They Oughta' Be

Tom Finnigan posts the following over at The Heritage Foundation's Policy Blog, alerting us to what looks like an interesting story (but one you won't be able to get to unless you're registered).

In today’s New York Times, Adam Liptak has a good article about how judges protect and empower lawyers. He writes, “Judges favor complexity and legalism over efficient solutions, and they have no appreciation for what economists call transaction costs. They are aided in this by lawyers who bill by the hour and like nothing more than tasks that take a lot of time and cost their clients a lot of money.”

The legal profession is self-regulating, and judges are determined to protect it in a way that no other professions enjoy. The article mentions several examples. A New Jersey appeals court recently decided that lawyers are blameless even when they know their clients are pushing baseless lawsuits to harass the other side.

Not immune from vainglory, judges also love “public interest” cases that afford them the opportunity to weigh in on the grand issues of the day. Even some judges recognize this problem. Dissenting from a supposed “free speech” decision that involved a college newspaper article from 1997 and a trivial amount of money, one judge wrote: “this is not a case that should occupy the mind of a person who has anything consequential to do.”