Trial lawyers and the President

Dramatically different approaches to justice and the rule of law

Stuart Zanville
2017 October

In a few days, we will mark the first anniversary of the last presidential election.

Notice I didn’t say we will be “celebrating” the anniversary. It would be fake news to say that CAALA’s trial lawyer members are doing that. For trial lawyers who believe in justice and the rule of law, this hasn’t been a presidency to celebrate.

In the past year, trial lawyers have been closely following every word and tweet that has come from our President, especially his comments about the American system of justice.

During his presidential campaign, we all were flummoxed when he urged supporters to assault protesters and then announced his disdain and disregard for the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press.

Actions and words

Just a few months after his inauguration it became clear that the President was not a supporter of the Courts or civil rights. He made racially insensitive comments against a federal judge, demeaned the Courts that ruled against his travel ban, discredited and humiliated his own attorney general, encouraged police brutality and threatened to ignore constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. But it’s the actions, not the words from this President that have trial lawyers concerned.

Most recently he stunned most of the country by praising and pardoning a sheriff who was accused of contempt for defying a court order.

Prior to that, his numerous Executive Orders have aggressively undone Obama-era rules that protect consumers, civil rights and the environment and he has ordered nearly every department in his administration to take actions that side with corporations instead of people. His strong advocacy for the reinforcement of bans on arbitration clauses, effectively move to deny Americans their day in court when they have been wronged.

To people with any understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the American system of justice, the President’s statements and actions are “an abomination on the rule of law, the principle of equal justice and plain decency.” Those last words aren’t mine, they were taken from a New York Times editorial that appeared on August 29, 2017.

That brings us to you, the trial lawyer members of our association.

Outstanding results for clients

In a few weeks, CAALA’s Board of Governors will select CAALA’s annual award recipients. This includes the award recognizing the CAALA Trial lawyer of the Year. Reviewing the accomplishments of CAALA’s members on behalf of consumers is as uplifting as the anti-justice statements of the President are demoralizing.

I’d like to share with you a small number of the results obtained this past year by CAALA’s members. I’m not going to give the names of the attorneys or the verdict amounts, I just want to pass along a small sample of the results they achieved.

Justice was achieved for the manager of a $700-million hedge fund who was a VIP guest at a Las Vegas nightclub and was severely beaten by security officers after an alleged dispute about his bill. Within 18 months of the incident, the hedge fund began to consistently underperform and had to be shut down. After the jury ruled against the nightclub, other Las Vegas establishments asked for the trial transcripts so they could analyze what went wrong and take corrective measures to make sure such conduct doesn’t occur at their clubs.

Two CAALA members took on Caltrans on behalf of a former UCLA football player who suffered the loss of his left leg in a motorcycle accident. After investigation, the attorneys realized there was a problem with the road design and found that there were 20 other accidents in the same location over a 10-year period. Days after the jury verdict in favor of the former football player, Caltrans spent a minimal amount of money to correct the road design problem.

CAALA attorney members stood up for a woman who was the victim of a predatory-lending foreclosure scheme by a Pasadena loan broker that resulted in the loss of her home after she missed two loan payments. The attorneys showed the jury that the loan broker knowingly issued a toxic and deceptive loan to the woman that resulted in rapid default and foreclosure of her home. The jury provided a remedy that directly benefits victims of wrongful fraudulent foreclosure.

Two CAALA attorney members and a civil jury forced a prominent tour bus company to change its operating procedures and adequately protect its customers after the tragic death of a 16-year-old boy who was killed while on a double-deck tour bus for a birthday bus trip around Hollywood. The attorneys showed the jury that the tour bus company had a similar circumstance on an identical double decker bus and did nothing to improve safety procedures. After the jury verdict, the firm changed their policies to safeguard their customers.

Two CAALA members took on the cause of a regional sales manager for a national medical device firm. After six months of mistreatment by his new supervisor, the manager was fired when he retaliated with a complaint in writing outlining how the supervisor had asked his subordinates to institute an illegal kickback scheme. Following the verdict, the manager got messages from dozens of past coworkers thanking him for his courage and for getting the company to change.

These are examples of what trial lawyers do every day to achieve justice and support the rule of law. They will not be undone by a Presidential tweet.

Stuart Zanville Stuart Zanville

Stuart Zanville is the Executive Director of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Contact him at (213) 487-1212 or by e-mail: stuart@caala.org.

Copyright © 2021 by the author.
For reprint permission, contact the publisher: Advocate Magazine