A citizens group, Florida Citizens for a Sound Economy, was conducting a campaign for tort reform in the first half of 1998.
As part of this campaign, they set up a phone number for Florida citizens to call which would then be patched into the Florida governor's office at the organization's expense so the citizen's "vote" in favor of tort reform could be recorded at the governor's office.
When the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers (which is against tort reform) found this out, they sent a fax to their members telling them to call the number and lie and deceptively withhold their identity so they could record a vote against tort reform at the governor's office; charging the bill to Citizens for a Sound Economy.
The following is a copy of the Citizens for a Sound Economy Web page about the scam. My (Bob Allston) comments are in italics:
Media contact: Slade O'Brien
PRESS RELEASE: May 1, 1998
Apology Demanded from Academy of Trial Lawyers.
Statement by Slade O'Brien, Director Florida Citizens for a Sound Economy:
The Academy of Trial Lawyers, led by Executive Director Scott Carruthers, has embarked on a shamefully dishonest campaign of deception (see script which follows).
The Trial Lawyers are faxing their membership, encouraging them to call the pro-civil justice reform 1-800-number of the Florida Citizens for a Sound Economy. They then tell their membership to lie to the operator about your position on the reform bill so that you can be patched through to the governors office and steal $5 per call from CSE in the process. Hundreds of these dishonest calls have already been placed.
What really disturbs me about this, besides the blatant dishonesty, is that you would think an organization as wealthy as the Academy of Trial Lawyers could afford to pay for their own phone calls. But isn't this just par for the course? Trial lawyers are constantly filling their coffers with other people's money. The excess, greed and tactics of deception put forth by Academy of Trial Lawyers never fails to amaze me.
Now that he has been exposed, I call on Mr. Carruthers to apologize not only to CSE, but to the Governors Office and the people of Florida as well.
You know the sad truth is this whole tort reform bill could have been avoided if the Academy of Trial Lawyers just had the courage to regulate their own profession. This action goes to prove how truly untrustworthy they really are. It is truly a shame that Floridians have to live with Trial Lawyers who claim they are there to protect them only to find out they will lie, cheat and steal to continue making money off of other peoples misery.
I trust that Governor Chiles will not be fooled by these wolves in sheep's clothing, that he will do the right thing and enact the fair and reasonable reforms passed by the Florida Legislature.
The following is the text of the script faxed under the letterhead of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers:
We need you and everyone on your staff to call 1-888/884-8864 and tell the Governor to VETO tort reform.
By calling this number, we accomplish three goals:
We cost the enemies of Florida's families $5.00 per call!!
We let the Governor know that the other side is artificially generating calls to his office.
We let the Governor know that the people of Florida don't want their safety sacrificed so that big corporations can make larger profits.
We urge everyone to follow these instructions very closely.
Call 1-888/884-8864 (An operator from the Citizens for a Sound Economy will answer.)
When the Operator answers only give your name and zip code. Be firm but polite about not giving your full name and address.
Comment by Bob Allston: Here, the Academy of Trial Lawyers is clearly telling their members to withhold their names so they can't be traced and caught. Of course any lawyer sleazy enough to participate in this scam would probably just interpret this to mean he/she should just lie about their name anyway. See the section of this site on LEGAL ETHICS, paragraphs 18, 19, 25, 27, 28, and 30 through 41.
The operator will then ask: Do you agree that Florida needs a fair civil justice system and not a system full of frivolous lawsuits and sky-rocketing attorney's fees? ANSWER BY SAYING YES.
Comment by Bob Allston: Here the Academy of Trial Lawyers is telling their members to lie in order to unethically if not illegally corrupt the political process and illegally and unethically place the phone call on someone else's phone bill. The same paragraphs from the section above on LEGAL ETHICS would apply.
The operator will then patch you to the Governor's office. When the Governor's office answers, please tell the receptionist: I just called a toll-free number and they told me to support tort reform. Well I am against it and want the Governor to VETO tort reform.
The Governor's office will then ask what county you are calling from. Go ahead and give them the county of your residence.
Comment by Bob Allston: Here the Academy of Trial Lawyers is telling their members in effect they won't get caught in the scam if they give the governor's office their county of residence. The same paragraphs on LEGAL ETHICS apply.
Please note that not all long distance servers honor this particular 1-888 number. If you can't get through at your office, please try from your home phone.
Final comment by Bob Allston: Slade O'Brien has pointed out the sad if not frightening nature of this scam and there is little for me to add. Clearly such a scam is grossly unethical by any standards including those of the Florida Bar itself. The fact that it was done so openly and blatantly only demonstrates the frightening greed, corrupted power, hypocrisy and disdain for democratic institutions that characterizes our contemporary legal profession.
And of course law students will take their queue from such practices, not from the voluminous rules and other writings promulgated by the legal profession on the subject (that they are presumably introduced to in law school) that are in reality just window dressing for the public. See for instance the section in this site on the difficulty in TEACHING ETHICS to law students.
Slade O'Brien, Director
Florida Citizens for a Sound Economy
Florida Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation
P.O. Box 276095, Boca Raton, FL 33427-6095
Phone (561) 417-7171, Fax (561) 417-7162,
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact our Washington office:
Citizens for a Sound Economy
Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation
1250 H Street, NW, #700, Washington, D.C. 20005-3908
1-888-JOIN-CSE, (202) 783-3870, Fax (202) 783-4687
(c)1998 Citizens for a Sound Economy