Saturday, June 09, 2007


It's one of my favorite topics because it seems to be an essential characteristic of human nature. For most of us our hypocrisies are little things such as espousing environmental concerns and then rationalizing an environmentally unsound practice by saying we do so much in so many other areas. When people become public figures hypocrisy takes on a whole new meaning. It becomes part of the public display and, as with the celebrity sought by the individual, the hypocrisy becomes blown larger than life as well.

This is particularly true for politicians. They are elected to guard the public interests. When they violate the oath that they take for office they inevitably cry foul, tell lies, and seek to persuade the public of their infallible behaviour. In American politics, Richard Nixon is the prime example. There have been many others since him - Democrat and Republican alike - but Nixon's statement that he couldn't commit a crime because presidents don't do that (paraphrasing here) boosted him into the hall of fame for political hypocrisy.

There's something delicious about catching a politician in committing not just a crime, but a hypocritical act. The bigger the blow hard and self righteous rhetoric, the more fun it is to see him/her fail. Think of when it was revealed that Newt Gingrich, he of old time family values, was having an affair and then sought a divorce. Think of Senator Robert Byrd chastising other politicians for racist rhetoric when he was a former member of the KKK. It is a pantheon of rich stories and colorful characters when, because of the essential nature of hypocrisy is guaranteed to grow and continue to amuse us throughout our lives. To wit, I present a new entry:

"Courts are now meccas for every conceivable unanswered grievance or perceived injury. Juries dispense lottery-like windfalls, attracting and rewarding imaginative claims and far-fetched legal theories."

Bork and Olson, Trial Lawyers and Other Closet Federalists, Wash. Times, March 9, 1995.

That's Judge Robert Bork, failed Reagan nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. He filed a lawsuit this past week against the Yale Club for failing to provide a railing to their dais. Nothing like seeking "lottery-like windfalls and rewarding imaginative claims" if there?
Former U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork sued the Yale Club of New York City for more than $1 million, claiming he tripped and fell because of the club's negligence as he ascended a dais to give a speech.

Bork, 80, a former Yale Law School professor, said the club was grossly negligent for failing to provide steps or a handrail between the floor and dais at an event for the New Criterion magazine last June, according to a complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court.

``Because of the unreasonable height of the dais, without stairs or a handrail, Mr. Bork fell backwards as he attempted to mount the dais, striking his left leg on the side of the dais and striking his head on a heat register,'' he said in the complaint.

The article goes on to note:

Bork didn't ask for a specific amount of punitive damages in his lawsuit. In a June 2002 article in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Bork suggested there might be instances where punitive damage awards are excessive.

``Proposals, such as placing limits or caps on punitive damages, or eliminating joint or strict liability, which may once have been clearly understood as beyond Congress's power, may now be constitutionally appropriate,'' Bork and a co-author wrote in an article that discussed Congress's power to regulate commerce.

In a 1995 opinion piece published in the Washington Times, Bork and Theodore Olson, who later became a top Justice Department official, criticized what they called the ``expensive, capricious and unpredictable'' civil justice system in the U.S.

``Today's merchant enters the marketplace with trepidation -- anticipating from the civil justice system the treatment that his ancestors experienced with the Barbary pirates,'' they wrote.

Finally, from the New York Personal Injury Law Blog comes these observations:
  1. This is a routine New York personal injury case. There is nothing particularly exceptional about it from the Complaint other than the plaintiff, a noted conservative jurist who has been part of the American Enterprise Institute, which engages in tort "reform" activities.
  2. Since no hospitalization is mentioned, I assume that the surgery for the hematoma was out-patient and may have been a simple drainage of some kind. Perhaps the med-bloggers who visit here can offer up a bit more on what kind of surgery was likely;
  3. The Complaint doesn't even come close to explaining why punitive damages would be warranted in such a routine negligence matter. My gut reaction is that it is frivolous.
  4. The Complaint asked for attorneys fees. Why? You can't get them in New York for a standard personal injury claim.
  5. The Complaint asks for pre-judgment interest. Why? You can't get that here either. Sad, but true. Interest runs from the date of the judgment not from the date of the accident, thereby giving insurance companies a reason to delay litigation as long as possible. Perhaps Judge Bork wants to come with me the next time I lobby the legislature to amend the law to include pre-judgment interest?
  6. The Complaint asks for an amount "in excess of $1,000,000" (not merely $1M, but in excess of). Where are the damages for making such a huge demand?

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