The rights and liberties our ancestors fought and died for (civil rights, due process and equal protection) are now, for the most part, thought less about by most Americans than the big question concerning who is going to be sent home on the next “Survivor” television show? More people know the names of the “OC Housewives” or “Bachelor” contestants than the names of our U.S. Supreme Court justices. This isn’t OK and I need to get this off my chest.
My name is Mitch Jackson and I’ve been a trial lawyer for 3 decades. Being a trial lawyer is something I’m very proud of.
Trial lawyers protect those who do not have the ability or resources to protect themselves. They keep the peace and make sure everyone plays by the rules. They are an indispensable part of a society and a group of professionals who work every day to try and make sure everyone and every corporation is equal, fair and just.
In a world where “alternative facts” start to become the norm and, a complete lack of respect for our Constitution, Separation of Powers, independent judicial system, and the free press, is promoted and endorsed by our “leaders” in Washington DC, you need to know the following:
When a person or company, no matter how big or important, decides that the law doesn’t apply to what they’re doing, trial lawyers are there to hold that wrongdoer accountable.
What we do matters. I truly believe that a good trial lawyer is the custodian of the community’s legal and ethical sense. We are not the enemy of business or progress. In fact, we’re just the opposite. We protect the rights and freedom of people and business and make sure quality products and safety always come first. We are the ally of business and the American dream.
The law and function of trial lawyers have changed over time. And that’s a good thing. Since the beginning of civilization, a common element of all people and societies is change. Trial lawyers and the law are no different. We need to continue to improve and revamp ourselves based upon prior conduct and the present and future needs of society.
Revamping or renovating something special is always the preferred approach. It’s not always easy but is always necessary. In fact, some call this cycle the cycle of life. Even the Statute of liberty wore out after a hundred years. It needed to be refurbished. No big deal.
Along the same lines and over 2 centuries ago a lawyer, Thomas Jefferson, helped pen the Declaration of Independence. Today it stands strong. It continues to be a landmark- a human progress of ideas, ideals and values.
The Declaration of Independence and for that matter, our Constitution, are living, breathing and changing documents. Monuments much older than the Statute of Liberty, and erected on paper rather than a cement foundation. Documents etched indelibly in the minds and free men and women wherever they are.
Most people on this planet believe equality and justice are primary concerns. Truth be told, this isn’t the case. People living in third world countries controlled by dictatorships know this all too well. Many Americans don’t truly appreciate the rights and liberties they experience on a daily basis.
And that’s too bad.
Tragically, it seems to me that many Americans have become passive when it comes to protecting their liberty and justice. They take for granted what some “talking head” says and they go along with the flow.
Based upon what I’m seeing and hearing almost on a daily basis, the average American just doesn’t’ believe it is his or her duty to preserve the liberties that all of us enjoy. And I find that very sad.
Big insurance, corporations and industry are taking advantage of this lack of effort. Many of these large entities fabricate false and misleading information designed to take away or dilute your rights to jury trial, while promote mandatory arbitration, and randomly cap damages.
The average consumer does not appreciate the fact that these entities are focused on placing their interest before your own and increasing shareholder wealth. They routinely place profits over people.
For some reason, lawyer bashing has become a peculiar and popular sport. Making fun of a group of professionals who have given an oath to protect your rights and liberties, in exchange for a quick laugh by uninformed consumers is simply adding the wrong ingredient to society’s main course of fairness and justice. It’s not OK. In the end the joke will be on the consumer who will wake up someday without laws protecting their basic rights and liberties.
Trial lawyers are the primary proponents of equality and when it comes to due process, they are the last line of defense. I still believe the legal profession is an esteemed and honored profession. Becoming a trial lawyer means becoming a member of a helping profession. Going about being a trial lawyer the right way means helping people effectively and with sensitivity. It means righting wrongs and protecting others.
Most good trial lawyers regard themselves as being charged with the public trust and committed to strengthen our system of law, equality and justice. I know I do.
Critics decry that in their opinion, if under your First Amendment Rights, you complain about a policy or law, then you’re not an American. They tell the public that if a person seeks redress for wrongs through our court system, then the system is broken and if you’re OK with this, you’re the problem.
I suggest they have it all wrong. It’s because of the people who stood tall and remained loud that all Americans have equal rights. It’s because of professionals, like trial lawyers, who said, “that’s enough” and took a case to trial, and then all the way to the Supreme Court, that the law of the land was changed protecting minorities, women, and others.
Did you know that of all the legal filings in our civil courts, less than 4% involve people suing other people for harm caused by wrongful conduct? The fact of the matter is that a majority of all civil filings involve one large company suing another large company.
Despite this fact, all you hear politicians demand is “tort reform” or “medical malpractice reform.” It’s ridiculous.
Ask yourself this question. 96% of all filings are made by big business. Why does big business believe it is OK for them to use our legal system and not you? Why is it that politicians use the court system to protect their rights but tell you that it’s not OK for you to do the same?
My fellow trial lawyers and I have a big problem with this. You should too.
The fact of the matter is that the only protector of your individual rights against government and big corporations is the trial lawyer. Using our American legal and jury system, trial lawyers are the only people trained and able to protect the rights of the people. The courthouse is the place that affords the opportunity for everyone, including you, to stand tall and assert your constitutional rights.
Trial lawyers are charged with task of protecting people from the greedy and providing legal services for the poor. Because of the efforts of trial lawyers, society is protected from governmental abuse and misguided criminal prosecution. Despite mandatory arbitration and artificial damage caps, with a good trial lawyer, consumers can still find justice and hold wrongdoing people and companies responsible for their illegal and harmful conduct.
Look around the world. Countries and regions that don’t share a due process type of legal system are in constant chaos. Dictatorships, greed and wealth control economies, the quality of life and who gets prosecuted criminally. Rights and property are taken from people without any due process or other system of checks and balances. Young girls are taken from villages by criminals and sold for $12 as sex slaves. In other cases, innocent people are found “guilty” of a crime and executed with the wink of an eye. Others victims are tossed from the top of buildings because of their sexual orientation.
If corporate American and big insurance had their way, they’d like to call all the shots and tell you what you can and can’t do. For the life of me, I just can’t understand why citizens put up with their “I’m better and know more than you” attitude. It’s not OK. With your encouragement and support, hardworking trial lawyers will never let this happen.
Trial lawyers know that there is no better legal system in the world than what we have in the United States of American. We know that in both the civil and criminal courts, the right to trial by jury is the one equalizer that allows a single person to hold government accountable. One voice, with the help of a good trial lawyer, can stop misguided corporations from selling dangerous products to innocent consumers.
Politicians who want to limit your access to the courts have it all backwards. Think about this for a moment. What do they want? Vengeance in the streets? Do politicians or big corporations really know what’s best for you? Do they really make decisions with your best interest in mind? As I mentioned above, why is it OK for them to use our court system and not you?
From the very beginning of humanity, we’ve been told that justice is the greatest concern of all the people on earth. When legal rights and due process are taken away from the people, societies self-destruct and disappear.
Other professions erect buildings that fall down, bridges that wash out, planes that fall and ships that sink. Some create dangerous cars and other products. As I mentioned above, even the steel of our sacred Statute of Liberty wore out in 100 years.
But during this same time, trial lawyers, without using stone, steel or rock, built a system with a foundation of equality, truth, and justice. Enduring paper monuments like the Constitution create and protect inspiration, truth and justice.
When we talk about truth, justice and the law what are we talking about? Trial lawyers will tell you we’re talking about an original, reasonable and accepted way for people to live together and settle their dispute without resorting to force. Today, almost everywhere we look around the world we see wars and other atrocities caused in large part by the absence of laws and due process.
Because of trial lawyers and the jury trial system, we have a government of laws and not men. Trial lawyers created new laws in court without the help, and in many cases despite the roadblocks placed by the state and federal legislatures and congress. Juries have power and help fix the harm every single day across our country.
We have free press. We have police restrained by due process. We have juries resolving conflicts.
In fact, and I’m talking about over the past 50 years or so, trial lawyers have created new laws through court cases that have made our country a better place. Most people are not aware that the laws I mention below were not originally created by legislatures or politicians.
When the government refused to take action, trial lawyers tried cases resulting in segregation being stopped in schools. Trial lawyers tried cases protecting your right to vote and resulting in unsafe products being banned from the marketplace. Trial lawyers have established laws protecting the senior citizens and the handicapped and preserving your right to education. Because of trial lawyers, discrimination is illegal. Also because of trial lawyers you have the right to legal counsel in criminal cases and are protected by the Miranda rule. Police brutality is no longer an accepted result of an interrogation or arrest.
I think that in our lifetime, the greatest change trial lawyers have helped make in court is that of equality. Equality between the races and sexes. Equality between the rich and poor. And equality between the haves and have notes.
Yes, we still have a long ways to go but despite all the lawyer jokes, good trial lawyers will make sure equality for all happens.
Too many of the uninformed in today’s fast paced world are brainwashed by political and big corporate media. For most people, if they hear something often and long enough, they start to believe that it’s true. It’s sad when you think about it. Not only for those who allow, on a daily basis, for their rights to be stripped from them one right at a time, but also sad for those who have become comfortable being sheep led around by a rope pulled by big government and corporate America.
In today’s world, when someone asserts his 5th amendment right not to talk to the police or testify at trial, people brand him or her as a criminal. It’s sad.
Justice Learned Hand long ago said, “Lawyers should have but one commandment. Thou shall not ration justice.” The end result is that the public is better protected and served. It’s all about you. But most consumers don’t appreciate this. Instead, they allow it to be all about big corporations and politicians.
While I have your attention, I’d like to add an additional thought to Justice Hand’s comment and that is as follows, “It’s not OK for politicians and big corporations to take justice away from citizens.” Whether you realize it or not, that’s what is happening in today’s world and on a daily basis.
The fact of the matter is that the trial lawyer is here to protect your rights, not take them away. The trial lawyer is your advocate and friend, not your enemy.
The trial lawyer and American legal system give people, who may not otherwise have a voice, the power to hold others, including wrongdoers, accountable for their improper and illegal actions. Despite all the propaganda constantly feed to Americans through advertising, marketing and political rhetoric, the fact of the matter is that having a trial lawyer on your side is a very good thing.
I’m proud to be a trial lawyer and have the opportunity to protect the legal rights of people just like you.
Jon Mitchell “Mitch” Jackson | Lawyer | Tech Entrepreneur | Digital Disrupter | 2013 California Litigation Lawyer of the Year and 2009 Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year (connect on social)