Two trial-lawyer milestones

One looks ahead with hope

Stuart Zanville
2018 March

I want to tell you about two milestones that affect trial lawyers. One looks backward with resignation and one looks forward with hope.

The first is that we just passed the President’s first year in office. I used the word “resignation” to describe how trial lawyers probably view that milestone. I didn’t mean the definition “to retire or give up a position,” that would be wishful thinking. I meant the other definition, “the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.”

In his first year in office the President gave himself credit for many accomplishments that he had little or nothing to do with. Unfortunately, whether they came from the President or not, many things were done that trial lawyers or the consumers they represent would hardly call accomplishments.

Everyone has their own Top 10 list of these negative “accomplishments.” For me, there is a clear No. 1. That’s the national divisiveness that was so prevalent this past year.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice wrote about this in a New York Times op-ed column on January 26. She wrote that “It is well documented that Americans are ever more divided: along party, ideological, socio-economic and cultural lines; by geographic, demographic, racial and religious differences. Our political polarization hampers our ability to tackle important national issues.”

A close second on my list of negatives is the Administration’s denial of the rule of law. From the President to his staff and his Cabinet Officers, there is regular refusal to accept the fact that the rule of law and the Constitution are foundational to American Democracy.

Third on my list is the practice of the President and members of this Administration to make inaccurate statements that circumvent the truth. I won’t call them liars, but lots of others have.

On January 19, an editorial in the L.A. Times referred to a report released by what the Times described as “the highly respected, nonpartisan Rand Corp.” The editorial said “The report mentions Trump only once in its nearly 300 pages. But it suggests, ominously, that we are living in a period in which the line between fact and fiction is being dangerously muddied. The report concludes that what it calls ‘truth decay’ poses a direct threat to democracy.”

At the beginning of this column I said there were two milestones that affect trial lawyers and that the second will be viewed by trial lawyers with hope.

The second milestone is we are eight months away from the 2018 midterm elections.

Since Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the only surefire way to change what comes out of the White House is for Democrats to take back the House or the Senate.

That’s what California Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said in The New York Times on January 28: “The most important thing people who are concerned about the direction of the Congress can do right now is change the majority in Congress. That’s the single most important thing we can do right now for the health of the democracy.”

Here’s the hopeful part. Changing the majority becomes possible because of the midterm elections on November 6. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested. Democrats need only 24 seats to flip the House and two to take the Senate, and in every midterm election since the Civil War, the President’s party has lost, on average, 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate.

Do the math, the Democrats do have a chance to take back either the House or the Senate. The pundits say the easier task for the Democrats is the House since the Democrats must defend 33 states in the Senate, many of them states that voted for President Trump.

What can you do to help take back the House or the Senate?

As a Californian, you have a real chance to make a difference. The Democrats have targeted 61 Republican House seats that are vulnerable or in play, and 14 are in California. Most are districts carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Many are in Southern California and you can lend your direct support to the Democratic candidates.

Another way is to join AAJ, our national association. Since the results of the 2018 elections will be pivotal in keeping the legal system accessible to your clients, joining AAJ makes more sense than ever.

Contributing to the AAJ PAC will also help turn our national negative into a positive. AAJ CEO Linda Lipsen reminds you that “AAJ PAC contributes over $6 million every election cycle in support of federal candidates who stand with you and your clients to preserve the civil justice system.”

There’s nothing you can do to change the negative events of the past year. There’s plenty you can do to make a positive change in 2018.

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.

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