A blistering attack on the tactics used by powerful lawyers to defend major corporations. Lawyers have a responsibility to defend their clients zealously, concede consumer activist Nader and attorney Smith in their third collaborative effort (Collision Course: The Truth About Airline Safety
, 1993, etc.). But, they contend, the "power lawyers" who work for the nation's largest law firms and who defend its biggest corporations use the "mantra" of zealous representation to justify a host of misdeeds, from trampling individual rights to overlooking or even covering up corporate evil. The perversion of justice they describe in the title comes from an imbalance: Power lawyers can marshal the vast resources of huge law firms to overwhelm their opponents (usually individual plaintiffs represented by lawyers from small firms) and make themselves vastly wealthy in the process. It is not just individual claimants who lose out, the authors claim, but vast numbers of ordinary citizens who are injured or killed when corporations choose legal stonewalling over correcting product defects. Nader and Smith illustrate their arguments with dozens of cases, such as General Motors' decision to fight each lawsuit brought against exploding gas tanks in certain of its pick-up trucks rather than correct the problem. Other cases demonstrate the stonewalling tactics used by power lawyers, including delaying trials for years, destroying vital documents, bringing frivolous harassment suits against individuals, and making confidentiality a condition of out-of-court settlements, meaning that the next plaintiff with the identical grievance must start from scratch. The authors are critical of tort reform legislation pending in Congress, which they claim would offer "a perpetual bailout for polluters, swindlers, reckless health care providers and makers of tobacco, defective vehicles, dangerous drugs, and many other hazardous consumer products." A brilliantly constructed attack on corporate legal defenders that ends with a rousing call to lawyers to remember ethics and idealism, but likely to enrage more lawyers than it inspires.
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