I am writing in response to a letter (Feb. 7) from William Thomas regarding the Menendez brothers’ mistrials. Some of his concerns regarding the fees and costs involved in prosecuting and defending the Menendez murder case are certainly legitimate. However, his sweeping condemnation of attorneys and the entire civil and criminal justice system is unfair, unjustified and misinformed.
A trial involving complicated issues of liability and damages in a civil case, or guilt or innocence in a criminal case, can be lengthy and expensive for all of the participants. The suggestion that the length and expense of a complicated trial are caused by the incompetence of conspiring judges and attorneys endeavoring to enrich themselves is preposterous. Any judge or attorney presently litigating cases in Southern California can attest to the fact that there is little judicial tolerance for any tactics designed to cloud the issues or otherwise delay a trial. Severe sanctions, both monetary and procedural, are quickly imposed against any offending party or attorney.
Thomas lashes out against consumer rights, arguing that personal injury suits involving automobiles and medical malpractice are clogging our judicial system, and therefore must be eliminated and replaced with no-fault insurance and caps on damages. He should be reminded that personal injury cases account for only 10% of all civil filings in California. Only a small percentage of those cases are actually tried before a jury. California already has a law (“MICRA”) limiting attorney’s fees, and damages, in cases against physicians. Unfair versions of “no-fault” insurance have been consistently rejected by California voters and their representatives in Sacramento. Unless and until a fair alternative to our present system allowing full and fair compensation for victims of negligence is presented, the status quo should remain so.
Our justice system is certainly not perfect. Expensive delays and inefficiency in civil and criminal cases can and must be minimized so that confidence in our system is restored. Our judicial system guarantees us the fundamental constitutional right to due process in a criminal case and the right to compensation for victims of negligence in a civil jury trial. These fundamental rights can only be guaranteed to us, and future generations, by steadfast faith in our ability as intelligent beings to improve and eventually perfect the system.
CHARLES A. PERNICE
Orange County Trial Lawyers Assn.