Lawyer Reform

Reduce the Number of Lawyers in Public Office

The number of lawyers in public office in our history has been large

The U.S. Congress has long been dominated by lawyer-politicians. "From 1780 to 1930, two thirds of the senators and about half of the House of Representatives were lawyers; the percentage seems to have stayed fairly stable" (Friedman 1985: 647). . . . at the beginning of the 101st Congress in 1989, 184 members (42%) of the U.S. House of Representatives were lawyers (47% of the Democrats and 35 % of the Republicans). Sixty-three senators were lawyers, roughly equally distributed between the two parties (Ornstein, Mann, and Malbin 1990: 20-21, 26-27). At the beginning of the 102nd Congress in January, 1991, 244 of the 535 members of both houses (46%) claimed attorney as their profession

(Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report 1/12/91: 118).

For a detailed list of each congressman and their profession at 7-10-10 go to:

Since the time of de Tocqueville (1841), students of American government have noted the over representation of lawyers in American politics (se e.g., Hyneman 1940; Hurst 1950; Matthews 1954, 1960; Schlesinger 1957; Derge 1959; Eulau and Sprague 1964; Keefe and Ogul 1989: 117-18). And it seems that the more important the political office, the more lawyers who occupy that office.

Because of the number of lawyers in public office has remained so consistently high reducing their numbers as the primary element of lawyer reform will take a continuing long term effort.

The large number of lawyers in Congress and the government was not a problem until their nature changed in the1960.s

With the large number of lawyers descending on Washington in the 1970's to enforce newly passed civil rights laws in an increasingly liberal culture, the goal of lawyers changed from doing good to simply increasing their power and influence. And in a very short time their income too.

As in many other aspects of our society there was a change from meeting one’s public responsibility to attempting to enrich oneself. Even at the expense of one's fellow citizens.

In To Kill a Mockingbird Gregory Peck played Atticus Finch, a white lawyer using a rifle to defend a black man’s life by blocking the entry to a jailhouse door. That was in the 1930s. How many lawyers today would do the same to defend an individual’s right to justice? Very few.

Now our three branches of government intended to serve as a check on each other are in the same hands

The biggest problem with the large number of lawyers in elective office today is that, disregarding everything else, they increasingly control all branches of our government: The Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. This in contravention of what the founders of our nation were trying to avoid when they divided our government into three branches so as to provide “checks and balances” and a “separation of powers”.

Though James Madison author of the U. S. Constitution realized that this checking of each branch on the other made for a far less efficient government, he realized, as he wrote in Federalist 47, that the sacrifice was worth it to prevent tyranny by a government “in the same hands”:

“ No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that . . . the accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Today 46% of our government branches are in the same hands of lawyers. Who, although as lawyers constitute a very sizeable number, still make up only ½% of our population.

Lawyers make up 38% of our Legislative branch, 100% of our Judicial branch and 0% of our Executive Branch. Electing Barock Obama with his lawyer wife will cause our three branches of government to be made up 80% of lawyers. Irrespective of one's political party this is untenable if one wishes to prevent government "in the same hands". The same hands of lawyers.

Voters should not forget the decline in morality and the ignoring of terrorism during the administration of lawyer Clinton, lawyer Gore, and lawyer Hillary. It should give them pause.

Multiple professional and business benefits accrue to the lawyer who is elected to an office:

He obtains in effect free advertising for his practice by using campaign funds to tout himself and at the same time by default—his practice.

He makes contacts with various special interests to whom the cost of his services as an occasional lawyer is peanuts compared to the benefits that those special interests can receive if he is in the legislature.

When he passes legislative bills which become our laws he can make them to such a degree of complexity that he is the only one who really understands the bills and therefore he would need to be hired to administer them. And in a more general way the fact that he is a lawyer will cause all laws to be written to a greater degree of complexity than necessary and as a result more lawyers will need to be hired to implement them.

And in Texas a lawyer as a member of the legislature is allowed to suspend the progress of any case while the legislature is in session. If a client wishes to delay a case in this way he must hire a lawyer in the legislature. Thus increasing the member’s value in the market.

. . . and government evolves in the ways of lawyers

Nelson Polsby (1990) seems to agree that social scientists have missed many of the important effects of the members' legal training on the legislative process. Polsby notes that, "Not only do a great many lawyers serve in Congress; the occupational culture of Congress is dominated by lawyers' ways and lawyers' jargon. committees are organized to elicit 'information' by 'holding hearings' in which 'witnesses' 'testify' and are examined 'on the record' by questions from members and staff. At least one high-ranking staff member, and usually more than one, is a lawyer and is known as 'counsel' to the committee. Hearings make the legislative record that surrounds legislation" (Polsby 1990: 114). Thus legal training appears to affect how lawyer-legislators go about performing their legislative duties.

. . .too many lawyers cause the law not to be made in a commonsense way but in a legalistic way. Process is worshiped over result because the lawyers get paid more for the process than the result. What could be more enjoyable to a lawyer than arguing the law after making the law which to be argued—as a legislator.

Because lawyers control all legal rulemaking an increase in the number of lawyers does not cause a reduction in their individual activity. It simply increases their percentage take of the American economy.

Lawyer reform is in order.

Reduce the number of lawyers.
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