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February 2009
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What is Incivility?

An friend is defending a client who is facing a frivolous lawsuit.  There is no debate that the lawsuit is frivolous.  My friend has written very polite letters.  Imagine, though, that he wrote the following:

Hey f--k sticks.  This lawsuit is s--t.  You are worthless f---s.  You ruin lives.  I hope you die.

The other lawyer would file a motion with the court.  The judge would be upset.  There would be a lot of drama.  That makes no sense.

What is more uncivil: a) making someone hire a lawyer and lose sleep due to stress because your rich client likes to pay you lots of money to file frivolous lawsuits; b) cursing people who file frivolous lawsuits?

The law needs to reconsider it's definition of civility. Civility is not form; it's substance.  Saying please while raping someone does not make the act civil.  

And we all need to reconsider why manners exist.  Do manners exist because they are good in themselves?  Or do they exist to restrain individuality as a way to benefit the power classes?  (Manners originated as conspicuous consumption.  Witless French ladies needed to show everyone how much money they had.  So they created manners.)

I have a weird relationship with manners.  I am exceedingly polite.  If I bump into someone, I am the first to apologize.  I do not cut in front of people in lines.  I help little old ladies walk across the street.  Yet manners is a one-way street.

I am often lectured about my "anti-social" or "embarrassing" behavior.  E.g., I curse people out who cut in lines.  I am told that this is impolite.  I disagree. 

Cutting in a line is wrong.  It is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Moreover, it means that whatever I am waiting to do will take me longer.

Yet when people cut in line, what's the response?  A few people groan.  Everyone knows that line cutting is wrong.  Yet no one says anything.  Why not?  Because that would be rude.

How bizarre.

Crime and Credit Card Companies

Imagine you hired me to work for you.  We agreed that you would pay me $1,000 a month.  I decided to change the terms of the deal without telling you; or by whispering my raise to you while you were on the phone with an angry client.  I'd look inside your office, whisper, "Raise," and you'd shoo me away. 

I would then withdrawal and extra $100 a month from your checking account. 

Would that be criminal conduct that would get me jailed?  Or civil conduct that would get me fined?

When Chase Bank steals money, they simply pay a fine:

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York's attorney general has pressured Chase Bank into ending what he said was an "illegal" $10 monthly fee imposed on thousands of credit card accounts last November.

The bank has also agreed to give refunds totaling $4.4 million to about 184,000 customers.

Why wasn't Chase Bank prosecuted?  Why can credit card companies steal from average citizens?  Why won't Barack Obama or the other liberals who care about the "little guy" doing anything about this theft?  

If Chase Bank and the responsible executives were prosecuted, I suspect other credit card companies would pause before robbing average Americans.  The credit card companies pay Barack Obama and the other liberals to look the other way.  And look the other way, they do.  Because, silly rabbit, those liberal politicians don't care about anything other than getting re-elected.

Mental Health and Civil Litigation

Norm Pattis has a good post up about crazy litigants.  He presents a problem that, alas, might not have a solution.

Everyone knows that at least 90% of pro se litigants are nuts.  They are called rabid pro se litigants for a reason.  What do you do?  Not let them file lawsuits?  Would that be constitutional?  Moral?

Should judges mandate pro bono representation of pro se litigants?  How do you explain to a pro se litigant - and they all Know Everything About The Law - that some strategy is not only insensible; but it's frivolous? 

Mandating pro bono would just require lawyers to proceed with frivolous lawsuits.  If the lawsuit were any good, a lawyer would have taken it.  Almost by definition, a pro se lawsuit if frivolous.  So why involve lawyers?

Not involving lawyers makes life complicated for judges.  Unrepresented litigants call the judge's office several times a day.  Involving lawyers might make the judge's life easier.  But what about other innocent parties?

People sued by pro se litigants must hire lawyers to defend themselves against frivolous lawsuits.  This is expensive.  Since pro se litigants are nuts, they call opposing counsel several times a day.  This makes litigation costlier. 

Something must be done.  What?

I'd be in favor of limiting every person to one lawsuit a year.  If you're suing more than once a year, you're crazy.  I don't think that law would be constitutional.

There is one solution: Sanctions.  Judges allow pro se litigants to miss deadlines.  Judges liberally construe rules in favor of pro se litigants.  It's time to toughen up.  If a pro se litigant wants to make someone else's life Hell by filing a frivolous lawsuit, then let the litigant join in the fun.  If the lawsuit is frivolous, hit the litigant with sanctions.  Require the litigant to pay those sanctions as a condition to filing a second lawsuit.

The economy has tanked.  Fewer people can afford lawyers.  More litigants are going pro se.  Judges must do something now.  While it's unconstitutional to deny a person the right to file a lawsuit, it is constitutional to require all litigants to follow the rules.  Start giving pro se litigants what they claim they have been denied, namely, equal protection under the law: Make them follow the same rules everyone else must follow.


I've recently started using Twitter.  Most of the people I follow are bloggers.  What do most of them Twitter about?  Their blogs!  The updates I read look like this: "I have a new blog post."  That's all they do!

Guys and gals, I already read your blogs.  That's how I know you.  I don't need to be told that you have a new blog post up.  I'll see it at your blog.

I thought people would do something else with Twitter.  Perhaps posting a link or two to something that's not on-topic for one's blog, but that is nonetheless interesting; or something that is interesting but not worth a full blog post.  A couple of Twitter-bloggers do this.  One famous law blogger is into ballroom dancing.  I enjoy seeing his links to various videos.  It broadens my world.

But just posting updates that your blog has been updated?  That makes Twitter seem like a redunancy.

Lovelle Mixon/Cop Killer Rally

This video segment raises many interesting issues:

When the Klan or other white-sponsored hate groups march, there is usually a counter-march. Where was the counter-march during the pro-Lovelle Mixon rally? Should Al Sharpton and other leaders of the black community be condemned for not sponsoring a counter-march. Why not?

Perhaps the anti-police sentiment is proper. I know how the Oakland Police Department treats blacks in Oakland. It's not much better than Jim Crow's days. Instead of condemning the marchers, perhaps the right response is to listen.


There is a low probability that you will be convicted.  This low probability event would, however, be catastrophic.  We must consider the risks.  Yes, yes.  Uh-hum.  Therefore, you need to purchase Trial Insurance.  Unfortunately, it's only sold by the State.  It will ensure your physical liberty; it will also steal your soul.  Norm Pattis has the details about a frustrating aspect of criminal defense.