Monday, September 26, 2005

The "Benevolence" of Insurance Companies

The ramp-up has started. Insurance companies, most notably Allstate, have begun airing television commercials telling us of their disaster-response teams. Allstate is even telling us how important it is that they hand out teddy bears to small children who have lost everything.

How nice.

What's interesting to me is how important it must be to people that the insurance company bring them ice for their insulin. My question is, how long are they gonna keep bringing that ice, while you're living under a bridge somewhere?

Look, everybody, insurance companies (individual employee attitudes notwithstanding) don't care if you survive the disaster. They're dressing up their couple-of-thousand-dollars-a-year efforts at "disaster-response" for one purpose and one purpose only. To make you think they care. Why don't we ask them how many claims they expect to pay out as a result of Hurricane Katrina & Hurricane Rita. Go on, ask them.

May It Please The Court is discussing how the courts will determine the legal cause of damages for the purposes of the insurance contracts. So, we'll get hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless people with their future tied up in court, attempting to get the ever-so-caring insurance industry to pony up.

The industry is going to fight. They always do. After all, as everyone with a brain knows, they're not in the business of paying claims. It disrupts their bottom line.

The Red Cross, United Way, a host of private charities, churches, and the government are doing everything they can in order to help those displaced by the hurricanes get immediate needs met. We don't need a "disaster-response" team from an insurance company. Let's tell them to use that money to pay the victims back a little for the windfall profits they've brought in.

Otherwise, we're left with this:

Disaster Responder -- "Hello little girl. I'm from the Ol' Granddad Insurance Company. Your parents have paid us thousands of dollars over the years, to gain peace of mind."

Little Girl -- "Our house just blowed away."

D.R. -- "I know, and I'm sorry about that. Here, have a teddy bear."

L.G. -- "But what about our house?"

D.R. -- "Check your policy. We'll be in touch."

Yeah. Right.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Roberts and "Drawing the Line"

I watched some of the confirmation hearings on Chief Justice nominee John Roberts last night, and I was struck by one exchange in particular.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), brought up the fact that Judge Roberts had said, regarding one of the cases he had argued before the Supreme Court, that he would have taken the other side's case if they had approached him first.

Durbin went on to ask Judge Roberts where he would "draw the line." He specifically asked about the Colorado case in which Roberts had provided advice to a gay/lesbian group that was seeking to overturn a Colorado law. He asked Roberts if he would have taken the State's case if they had approached him first.

Roberts replied that he would, and referenced the words carved above the door of the Supreme Court.

Equal Justice Under the Law.

I just don't think he explained adequately.

The reason you, as a lawyer, take the state of Colorado's case (if approached by them) is simple.

If both sides of a case are not argued ably, and to their fullest extent, then what you wind up with is wishy-washy precedent, or worse, no precedent in a win by default. If you don't have an advocate who is able to put aside their personal views, and argue the merits of a case based upon the rule of law as it applies to your client, then you essentially, completely, and without fail reduce the argument to a moral one. Since Justice is Blind, then both sides of a case must have equal opportunity to have their case presented in a way which clearly and expertly outlines their view of the law.

After all, that's what courts are for. Roberts said that, when sworn in to the Supreme Court Bar, you are welcomed as "an officer of the Court," and in doing so he merely touched on the bigger picture. That being that "Equal Justice Under The Law," means equal opportunities for representation, consideration, support, and fair judgment; not just by the Judges or Justices deciding a case, but also by the attorneys arguing it.

Imagine, if you will, a time where the societal norms regard a certain group of people as less-deserving of certain rights. Those people are attempting to obtain access to the courts. Imagine, then, that everyone has done as Senator Dick Durbin would, and "draw the line" by not taking cases which are outside of society's generally accepted principles.

Would our system of justice mean anything at all to those people? I think not.

Now, I know, it sounds like I'm comparing Colorado's arguments with the plight of American black people after reconstruction. Truth is, I am, and I'm not. There's certainly no philosophical parallel between a state arguably wishing to deny someone's rights, and a group of people whose rights have been denied. But what we've got to do is recognize that their arguments must be given equal footing, equal opportunity to be heard.

If we don't do that, then we're allowing someone's subjective judgment to whip the blindfold from Justice's eyes. Dick Durbin might think that's a good thing, but if he thinks he's going to be the one who gets to do it, he'd probably find there are many, many groups in line ahead of him.