How I Became a Communist?
First; let me say I am not a Communist! But, I have taken note of some people in my Republican Party who treat a moderate Republican such as me like I were a socialist or a communist. They are called variously, “the radical right”, “the religious right”, or “The Tea-party”. They have been attacking, among many things, our civil justice system, our right to a jury of our peers, basic precepts of tort law Starting with the rise of Rush Limbaugh and other “media personalities”, they also attack the idea that it is abnormal and dangerous to have an ebb and flow, give and take, and swinging pendulum of moderate, conservative, and even liberal President congress. In short, they are challenging our political system and labeling anyone who disagrees with them as Un-American. In fact, is a put the finishing touches on this post, Rudy Giuliani announced on Fox T.V. that President Obama does not love America. I posted “Rudy has his head up his Patooty!”. The radical conservatives would have you believe that anyone to the left of Newt Gingrich or Carl Rove is un-American, and that President Obama is a socialist “just like Europe”. Most political commentators agree that the current version of the political right would never support a Ronald Reagan. Special interests like the Gun Lobby also join in, to pour resources and vengeance on anyone who dares say the slightest thing in favor of reducing gun violence. Add to them the traditional, pro-business, conservative, and I confess that I believe our system of civil justice is endangered. We could see a future where our fate is tied to a rigged system of politically appointed judges and arbitrators. It is a scary thought indeed. Here are some thoughts in favor of moderation and our constitutional system of checks and balances. How about the idea that lawyers are essentially selfish and bad?
Feb 21, 2015. I must post today’s comment from Paul Byrd. I see that he does not want us to forget that he respects greatly his Arkansas conservatives. He does not want us to lose focus that these folks, many of them “Scots-Irish”, believe in the same thing that we trial attorneys believe in. They serve on our juries, and we must try to communicate our message. I have purchased Jim Webb’s book, “Born Fighting”, as I am Scots-Irish myself. Here is Paul’s comment:
Burton – One thought that I would like to emphasize is that the Tea Party and Christians embrace the values and Freedoms that the Jury Trial protects. If you want to enforce your property rights, you have the right to a jury trial. There is no freedom of speech or freedom religion if the Government or others can take your printing presses and Church buildings; therefore, property rights are essential to freedom. If you are accused of wrongdoing, you have the right to a jury trial. If you have had your life taken away by wrongdoers, your family has the right to a jury trial. Without this right, there is no protection of our freedoms. So a jury trial IS the protection of our Life, Liberty and Property. Always has been in this Country. It is what makes this a Great Country.
The Lawyer as Peacemaker and Mediator
Before I get started on the rest this task, please remember that many great men (and now women) were lawyers, including the Roman Orator Cicero, and the guy who I quote below. Assuming the quotation is accurately attributed, and it rings true to me, Lincoln had the heart of a mediator. It is ironic that he served his most difficult time as a war president. But he was a practicing lawyer for a couple of decades at least. This first slide comes from the WV Assoc. for Justice Mid Winter Meeting and Seminar, the segment on Mediation by Monica Haddad and Donald B. O’Dell.
How Can a Trial Lawyer Communicate with a Conservative?
My sincere thanks to Little Rock Arkansas attorney Paul Byrd, and indirectly to Ken Conner, who he credits below, for allowing me to borrow some of their slides to the recent continuing education seminar that Paul presented to the WV Association for Justice. There are some real eye openers here, but the narrative is mine and may touch on, but is separate from, Mr. Boyd’s presentation. If you get a chance to go see him, I urge you to do so. Mr. Byrd is politically and socially conservative, but he is not a radical, and he is not closed-minded. And, in spite of my provocative title above, “I am not a member of, nor have I EVER been a member of, The Communist Party!” People of my generation and earlier may remember this is the question Senator McCarthy asked of people he called to testify before congress in the years of “red baiting” and “communist witch hunters”. I have spent the last year as a registered Independent after spending 50 years as a Republican. I think I shall change back, and do what I can to rescue my party from what I believe, at worst, is a radical, hateful, agenda and at best is a simplistic view of the world. As I have become a bit more tolerant on social issues, abortion, gender equality, gun violence, immigration, end of life issues, and (the horror of it) the specter of legalized marijuana, my party has not. While I still want my tax rate to go UNDER 40%, which it presently is not, and have loyally supported both Presidents Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan, and citizen President Obama for being too hesitant, and still want our government to function within its means, and want our Social Security and Medicare programs to maintain fiscal integrity, those conservative personalities, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Michael Reagan, and Mike Huckabee describe people with my views as socialists, and they intentionally blur the differences between socialism and communism. The last time I looked, the only declared socialist in Congress is Bernie Sanders, but I admit the guy makes a lot of sense. I dismissed socialism back when I read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead by Any Rand, and I still do. Too bad most of the radical right failed to read and study outside of their harshly narrow, and often bigoted views. And we find other terms bandied about that “muddy” or understanding. “He is a Nazi!” “They use ‘Gestapo tactics’.” Why is it so tempting and easy to use labels and shallow thinking in place of rational and collegial communication. I won’t try to answer that, but I will try to improve the communication between us trial lawyers and rational conservatives. You see, good, honest, lawyers (and there are many, and there were many among our founding fathers), are devoted to the rule of law, to our Federal and various state constitutions, to our system of government, to “the balance of power”, to freedom of thought and speech, to our bill of rights, to our right to jury, and, does it even need to be said, to our right to keep and bear arms. It is the radical and religious right that want to favor a few constitutional provisions over the others. How then did we get to the point that being a “trial lawyer” became so abhorrent that our national and state organizations became an “Associations for Justice” instead of “trial lawyer” organizations? Let’s blame Carl Rove. I love it that the new radical right has drawn fire from, and aimed fire, at Mr. Rove. He was brilliant at forming a message and redefining “the truth”. Perhaps, like Dr. Frankenstein, he helped to create this “monster”. No one who studies American history, especially the history of the formation of this country, believes that our founding fathers were devout, practicing, Christians. They were men of” The Age of Enlightenment”. They were committed to religious freedom and tolerance, but I submit they were as committed to a person’s right to be free from religion as to believe a particular doctrine. Nevertheless, see below in the Preamble to the West Virginia Constitution the references to “Devine Providence” and “reliance on God.” If our Continental Congress, and our WV Legislature were so brilliant in preserving these rights, and others, how could they be “off base” on the right to a trial by jury? Here is what they had to say about that right. Here it is above; in green and white, a constitutional federal and state right to be judged by a jury of our peers. And, talk about something the rad-right should consider “holy grail”, the right of the individual to equal protection and due process under the law! Due process, of course, should include the right to bring a lawsuit, prove your allegations, or have your opponent disprove them, and bear true consequences. What of the “loser pay” idea”? My view is that “loser pay” provisions will allow insurance companies and big business to intimidate people, even those with just claims, abandon or compromise those claims because they cannot bear true risk of paying the insurance companies’ legal expenses. Now, please look below. The Federalist Papers, authored by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, explained what the “rad right”, and fundamentalist Moslems in the Middle East cannot wrap their heads around, that government, of imperfect human beings, especially in a democracy, must have a system of checks and balances. Such a system, guards against passions taking control, and against tyranny by the majority, or a fanatical minority. Loyal reader; if you have stuck with me this long, I will share that I have been working on this post for 3 weeks, and I have had a stressful week. We leave for our working (and writing) vacation tomorrow. So, I will let you read and savor Mr. Byrd’s slides and his message that those of us who are on the side of “the little guy” are neither evil or anti-American. Let’s have a bit more faith in our founding fathers than that. jbh
This post was written by Burton Hunter