Lawyer loan sharks harpooned

There's one solution to the crime problem in Illinois: make everything legal. You can't argue with the logic. If everything were legal in Illinois, there would be no crime here. There would be no criminals either, nor any need for law enforcement. We could shut down our court system, close our prisons, and enroll all our attorneys and judges in retraining programs. Of course, the things that had been considered crimes -- the things that had been prohibited -- would still occur in Illinois. In fact, without the disapprobation of society and the force of law, crime undoubtedly would occur with increasing frequency. The skyrocketing incidence of theft, assault, and murder would make us pine for the relative peacefulness and security we enjoy today. So, maybe legalizing everything isn't such a good idea. But the legalization of individual crimes has been occurring with regularity for several decades now. Gambling was once illegal, as were pornography, abortion, and various sexual practices once considered deviant. The list of decriminalized offenses is rather extensive. Some approve of our increasing laxity, others condemn it. Surely, though, we ought to consider the consequences of endorsing currently illicit behavior beforehand rather than afterwards. Putting the genie back in the bottle is impossible. To its credit, the Illinois House of Representatives has taken a sober look at a proposal to legalize yet another time-dishonored practice and rejected it by a wide margin. Dubbed the "Lawsuit Loan Shark" bill, the "Non-Recourse Civil Litigation Funding Act" would have given the blessing of law to the crime of champerty, the financing of someone else's litigation in exchange for a large share of the settlement. The negative effects of champerty are well-documented and have been known for centuries. Nevertheless, it has its champions today, who lobbied House members energetically to give their vice a virtuous façade. All but one of the 87 members who voted against an amendment that killed the bill for now, deserve our thanks. Newly retired state Rep. Jay Hoffman is that one member. We presume that last minute language added to the bill changed his mind, but his dedication as a chief co-sponsor in the first place distracted lawmakers from more sobering problems.

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