Holding their annual meeting of the minds this week in Seattle, leaders of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) are perplexed. How did it come to be that we mere mortals believe they are really only in it for the money?
Filed under "because what else is there?," a useful ATLA intervention might highlight the case of Metro-East widow Judy Buckles.
Buckles became a vocal advocate for lawsuits-- and plaintiff's attorneys-- after her husband died of mesothelioma back in 1997. She hired the best and the brightest asbestos minds here in Madison County-- including multimillionaire John Simmons-- to sue a legion of companies en route to "justice and democracy."
Those are her words, just a morsel of the boundless praise she dished out as a co-founder of "Victims & Families United," a trial lawyer-backed front group that was, well, "pro-trial lawyer." Buckles served to humanize the good deeds of the plaintiff's bar, usefully countering the heat generated by their exorbitant fees and the Metro-East's decimated industrial base during the 2004 election season.
Simmons & Co. walked on water then. But now that her case is done and gone and "justice" has been served, Buckles is no longer playing the smiley apostle. She filed suit against lawyers last week in Madison County Court, claiming they kept most of the settlement money in her case for themselves.
If such a result were a rarity, suffice to say that the trial lawyers wouldn't face such a major image problem. They wouldn't have to change their name to the AAJ, or "American Association for Justice," as has been reported, as part of an effort to reprogram the masses. Their genuine message is simple, claims an ATLA spokesman.
"Big corporations are fighting for bigger profits, and trial lawyers are fighting for people."
Smooth. But we have to ask-- where exactly are all these people?
We see Judy Buckles, while leading class action law firms face indictment for paying plaintiffs to carry out their lawsuit ideas. And we see legal fees-- lots and lots of legal fees.