Item: Attorney for the Ku Klux Klan, Scott Greenwood, wants the city (meaning you and me)
to pay for the time he spent fighting to put the Klan's cross on Fountain Square. The tab is
more than $100,000.
Item: Money magazine says President and Mrs. Clinton owe more than $2 million in unpaid
legal bills from Whitewater, Travelgate and the Paula Jones sex--harassment case.
Item: ''O.J. Simpson, the interview'' went on sale this week for $29.95. Profits will be
used, in part, to defray the nightmarish million-dollar legal fees of his dream team.
Item: Former Cincinnati police Officer Claudia Vercellotti, cleared Wednesday of criminal
charges, said, ''The prosecutors should not feel like they've lost. They've taken a year of my
life, they've taken my job, they've taken my integrity and my faith.'' And money. Her
attorney, Marc Mezibov, says her bill for his firm's services could be as much as $75,000.
Back when the White House was up to its elbows in health care reform, I thought they had
grabbed the wrong end of the stick.
Instead of government arranging for all of us to get affordable, mediocre medical care
from doctors who would become more or less government employees, carefully supervised by
professional insurance adjusters, I thought they should arrange for managed legal care.
Health care, I suspect, would instantly be cheaper. As would the cost of doing
Even better, they could demand universal legal coverage.
This would guarantee every American the right to have a lawyer any time we need one. Or
even when we just want one. If lawyers were free or even cheaper, maybe we'd all feel a lot
better about using their services when it's not an emergency. Kind of legal wellness.
The attorneys would get paid only what the government (or the insurance company) thinks
is fair, and they would have to justify any depositions they take or any briefs they file to a
qualified insurance adjuster, who also would closely monitor their billable hours.
If the lawyer devotes too many hours to, say, a simple personal injury claim, the lawyer
would only get paid for the average number of hours the government or insurance company thinks
should be devoted to such routine misfortunes.
No more attorney-client secrets
Of course, we'd have to do away with attorney-client privilege because the government
would need to paw through the lawyers' files periodically to ensure they are performing their
duties according to approved guidelines.
They would not be allowed to exclude certain high-risk customers, such as serial killers
I still think this is a great idea.
In fact, when Steve Forbes, Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp get finished with their ''my tax is
flatter than your tax'' discussion, I think they should get to work on this. It has distinct
elements of supply-side economics, too. While the nation's law schools continue to churn out
lawyers, if we continue to sit on the shoulders of physicians, my prediction is that fewer and
fewer smart kids will want to be doctors.
So, there will be a lot of bright students who will instead choose the legal
The more lawyers out there trying to make a living, the more lawsuits there will be. And
if all the lawyers do their part, pretty soon the insurance companies will be demanding some
sort of reform.
The last thing the insurance companies want to do is to squander your premium money on
I am serious about this. Legal costs are eating us up alive. Next time you see your
doctor, ask her about malpractice premiums. Ask a physician you trust (or who trusts you) how
many medical decisions are made with a courtroom instead of an operating room in mind.
I was seriously sick once and seriously sued once. Getting sued was a lot worse. The
outcome was more uncertain, it was more expensive and it was a lot scarier.