Thursday, September 29, 2016

Legally Bald

Legally Blonde is a fun movie and the stage musical version is a hoot. I’ve been in enough legal tangles, however, to know that being in litigation is not all fun and games. As an entrepreneur I had to utilize the system more time than I would have preferred to have contracts fulfilled. Put plainly: I’ve sued a bunch of people. I’ve been sued. I’ve won most but I’ve lost as well. Regardless of the outcome the process is not for the weary. The American civil legal system is something to behold: it’s big, it’s cumbersome, it’s lengthy and it embodies the fundamental philosophy that we’re all equal. A good friend who’s an attorney always reminds me: “It’s America. You can sue anybody for anything.” Thanks to Congress that’s more true than ever before.

Congress did something extraordinary this year. It passed legislation during one of the most unproductive sessions in American history. And it did so unanimously. Victims families of 9/11 championed the bill that gives them permission to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for damages for the terrorist attacks their citizen perpetrated on 9/11.

America’s civil legal system allows for financial penalties to be assessed even when the criminal side of the system can’t assess blame. OJ Simpson is a high profile example. He was found not-guilty of the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman criminally, but he was held responsible on the civil side and the victim’s families were awarded $33.5 million in damages (of which less than $500K was ever paid).

The victims of 9/11 want to do the same thing. They say: all of the hijackers were Saudi nationals, so the Saudi government should pay damages. The attacks of September 11th were horrible. Terrible. Inexcusable. Nothing written here negates that. But perhaps there’s some context. Victim’s families have been compensated. From the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund overseen by Ken Feinberg “$7 billion was awarded to 97% of the families; the average payout was $1.8 million.” The similarly named but separate September 11th Fund distributed $538 million. World Trade Center Captive Insurance Company spent an additional $1 billion. Nearly $9 billion has been paid in direct compensation. No amount of money can ever replace a lost loved one. Victims of 9/11, however, have been given a lot more than other victims of many other crimes have.

What happens when the Afghan’s, the Pakistanis, the Iraqi’s all decide that the U.S. drones that have killed thousands and thousands of civilians?  American citizens, legislators and soldiers will all be open to being sued.

The law the Congress passed President Obama vetoed because it repealed the long-standing legal principal of sovereign immunity. On September 28, 2016 Congress by huge majorities overrode the veto.  The measure amends the 1974 law that “granted other countries broad immunity from American lawsuits.” Passage occurred without debate, no committee hearings. (That’s the Congress we know and love.) There wasn’t even public outcry – just a small group of September 11th families. We can all understand their pain but putting the U.S. and its citizens at legal culpability for its many acts and intrusions around the world is too high a price. 

If we’re going to be suing let’s have a class action lawsuit again the Republicans in the Senate for abandoning their constitutionally mandated responsibility for refusing to advise and consent on a Supreme Court nominee.

If we’re going to be suing let’s go after the DNC for rigging the primary system against Bernie or go after the RNC for rigging the system for Donald.  

If we’re going to be suing let’s go after the police who are killing unarmed, innocent civilians.

Congress’ override of President Obama’s veto lays America bare and open for like lawsuits. We’re now legally bald.

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