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The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law Hardcover – January 21, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Olson, a veteran legal commentator (The Litigation Explosion) and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, profiles a sector of the American legal system that he contends is out of control, inflicting serious damage on the nation's economy. The target of Olson's polemic is the use of class actions by a coterie of private lawyers who extract enormous verdicts and settlements from lawsuits against producers of tobacco, asbestos, automobiles, pharmaceuticals and the like. According to Olson, trial lawyers subvert democracy by using courtroom procedures to obtain reforms, such as regulating guns, which the American left has not been able to achieve in the federal or state legislatures. The lawyers distort public opinion, buy influence with judges through campaign contributions, introduce junk science into evidence and manipulate juries through unworthy courtroom theatrics. The class-action lawyers, Olson contends, garner stupendous fees for themselves, often produce minuscule payments to their clients and drive entire segments of business into bankruptcy. Olson contends that the class-action bar is bolstered behind the scenes by left-leaning organizations such as those affiliated with Ralph Nader. This is a partisan indictment, powerful enough in its recital of horror stories about misuse of the law, but so one-sided that it will appeal largely to those already convinced of the rectitude of big business.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Olson examines class action and mass tort law on behalf of consumers and how such laws have become a platform for a new legal elite. He reviews the early asbestos, silicone breast implant, and tobacco cases, showing how the law has expanded to accommodate this legal elite at the expense of the public. Good public relations and the capacity to confuse the public contribute more to jury verdicts than justice, according to Olson, who cites examples of the bashing of the auto industry by the popular television programs 60 Minutes, 20/20, and ABC's Dateline. Olson is especially concerned that as private attorneys accept contingency fees to litigate on behalf of states, they have become too cozy with states' attorney generals, particularly in tobacco lawsuits. This effective privatization of the public interest has created a group of lawyers who have become exceptionally wealthy and major donors to political officials. This book will appeal to readers interested in the intersection of the law, current events, and politics. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Truman Talley Books; 1st edition (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312280858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312280857
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There's an old Latin maxim that asks, "Who watches the watchmen?"
I just finished _The Rule of Lawyers_ and Olson should be thanked for piecing together more than a mere series of judicial outrages. Olson shows how trial lawyers have syphoned billions of dollars into their own pockets while manipulating legislatures and judges in order to shield themselves from accountability. This is nothing short of an assault on the Constitution. Every American who cares about the future of the country (please forgive the purple prose, but I'm serious here) needs to read this book.
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By A Customer on June 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have worked for the plaintiffs' class action bar since I got out of law school a few years ago. I like to visit Mr. Olson's website overlawyered.com, where the firm that I work for is routinely slagged. Anyway, I finally got around to reading The Rule of Lawyers, and I thought it was pretty good. I certainly can't question the main premise, that the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry a few years ago generated massive cash for the plaintiffs' class action bar that has been plowed back into new class actions aimed at (1) enriching counsel for the proposed class(es) and (2) promoting some kind of social agenda. As Mr. Olson discusses in his book, class litigation is mostly a kind of cozy shell game where a specialized group of lawyers on both sides broker settlements with each other, at the cost of insurers and their customers, although recently the verdicts are getting to be the size of the GNPs of some countries (like the Philip Morris case in Illinois), and I think it's probably not a good idea for trial lawyers to have that kind of power.
Mr. Olson obviously has legal training and mostly gets the law right. I think the main flaw in his premise is just that it's not really reasonable or fair to expect the plaintiffs' bar to be better than the society they operate in. Sure they are crazed with greed and self-aggrandizing fantasies, but so are a lot of people. My point is, they are really a symptom of the society more than anything else. The real solution is to try to encourage the public to develop a better understanding of what the law is supposed to do. I don't think ad hoc legislative interventions like the Class Action Fairness Act are the answer. I worked for a district court and I can tell you that reports about overcrowded federal dockets are very true.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a former (and now retired) business lawyer in California, I have observed the antics (and, yes, the anti-social tendencies) of the class action trial lawyers over the years with a great deal of embarrassment and chagrin, and have wondered how and when they would be reined in. That day is still a ways off, unfortunately, for the reasons Mr. Olson relates in his book.
Mr. Olson "tells it like it is," citing a mountain of well-researched facts and anecdotes, and he builds his case with the reader relentlessly. The author demolishes the myths that the trial lawyers' bar would have us believe, and explains why the system is out of control. Concludes he, "Year upon year we do nothing to govern our elite litigators, and the result at length is that they have decided to govern us." The ultimate victims are the taxpayers and the integrity of the legislative and judicial system.
This book should be required reading of every legislator and judge, both federal and state, as well as by every well-informed American, whether of conservative, liberal, moderate or agnostic bent. I rarely write book reviews for posting on www.Amazon.com, but this book was extraordinarily good.
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Format: Hardcover
The author writes that in the 1970s legal writings began proposing that judges create
some new rights to sue noting that some thinkers in the law schools and elsewhere had
come to see lawsuits as a king of surrogate social insurance, identifying deep pockets
from which accident victims might obtain compensation. In addition, law schools began to encourage lawyers to be entrepreneurs. Under this philosophy "...more than half of the nation's GNP would be routed through lawyer's offices. A lot would stay there."
The author states that trial lawyers are usurping the power vested by the Constitution in an elected Congress. He develops his thesis by reviewing the methods used by trial lawyers in litigation involving the tobacco settlement, gun control, silicone breast implants, asbestos, etc. In addition, the book discusses how some states, referred to as "The Jackpot Belt," are overly supportive of class action lawsuits and trial lawyers. In fact one southern town has class action lawsuits as its major industry and their wealthy trial lawyers are its elite citizens.
The text notes that the class action/mass tort litigation business is basically unregulated with the Washington Post newspaper lamenting that "we now have government by and for lawyers," who had "hijacked the public policy for private enrichment" in a "daring inventive and brazen" campaign. The author notes that all pretense of legitimacy was tossed aside when the trial bar referred to itself as a Fourth Branch of government, and notes that "...we allowed the Fourth Branch to seize the historic powers of government while escaping the long-evolved constraints on the abuse of that power.
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