March 23, 1998

Fact and Comment: Obscenity
by Steve Forbes

  1. TRIAL LAWYERS ARE POISED to reap billions of dollars in those tobacco settlements. This is an outrage, and ought to be blocked. Lawyers retained by the state of Florida to go after tobacco companies, for instance, could make the equivalent of almost $8,000 an hour. In Texas it's even worse. In Minnesota the agreement Attorney General Skip Humphrey cut with a politically-friendly law firm, which stands to collect $442 million, remains secret. Hiring outsiders on such a lavish contingency-fee basis is pure political pork on an obscene scale. Guess who the biggest contributors to the Democratic Party are: trial lawyers. State governments and Washington have thousands of lawyers on their payrolls. If governments can't rely on their own in-house counsel, they can do what any sensible business would do-hire outsiders at a fixed hourly rate.

  2. Should Congress pass a federal settlement, countless lawyers will each reap many millions of dollars simply because of their political connections.

  3. Representatives Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) and Paul McHale (D-Pa.) are proposing to cap fees at the rate of $150 for each hour of documented work. There would also be full disclosure as to who got how much. The American people would pass such a bill in a nanosecond. But will Congress and the White House? This bill's fate will be a good barometer of the scale of corruption in American politics today.

This is a page in the section entitled Lawyers Make Billions at Expense of Sick and Dying Smokers in the Web site entitled Legal Reform Through Transforming the Discipline of Law into a Science.