Civility in a Fractious Society

When I first started practicing law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, lawyers on both sides of the case got along and did not intentionally antagonize each other.  Pleadings and defenses were based upon provable facts and reason.  Things have changed.  Many defense firms routinely engage in “scorched earth” tactics, waste whole forests of unnecessary paper and bill many hours in order to pad their pocketbooks.

How do I survive the outrageous allegations of opposing counsel and the frivolous defenses of insurance company lawyers ?  I was taught to respectfully consider the views of others and to show professional courtesy to other members of the bar.  However, if people have to lie to make their point, then they really do not have one.  Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the most erudite politicians once said, “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”  When insurance companies distort or fabricate facts, or interpose frivolous claims in order to delay or deny the injured victim her day in court, it contributes to the fracturing of our society.  This is especially true when justice is denied or even delayed.  Trial judges need to step up and punish those who file frivolous defenses.  To ignore these practices is to give silent acknowledgement to injustice, and that has never been the American way.

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