Two weeks after Hot Coffee aired on HBO, filmmaker Brian J. Kelly premiered his documentary, InJustice, on Reelz. Never heard of Reelz? Neither had I, but apparently Kelly initially pitched his film to the Discovery Channel and other more prominent cable channels; nobody, nobody, but these guys, would pick it up. When Kelly was looking for investors, a business associate in Washington, DC connected him with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (who else?), which ultimately funded part of the project. Although the Chamber of Commerce won’t comment, Kelly said their investment was $100,000. Some readers may be somewhat surprised that a chamber of commerce, all commerce (including legal services companies and law firms), would finance an anti-justice, anti-lawyer, anti-legal business documentary. This anti-citizen Chamber is behind all these “Citizens” against lawsuits groups with significant “behind the scenes assistance” from big tobacco, big pharmaceutical, the medical profession, and big insurance.
But, it gets even more interesting. Kelly’s pursuit in producing the film was apparently driven by a series of lawsuits filed against him by a prior tenant. Kelly uses InJustice to express his opinions about our legal system; he attempts to illustrate alleged ‘faults’ in the America’s legal system. The hour-long film, featuring interviews with defense lawyers (no surprise there), looks inside a series of cases where lawyers, Richard (Dickie) Scruggs, Melvyn Weiss, and William Lerach (so-called the Kings of Torts), were able to perpetrate massive frauds, lie to judges, and manufacture cases for their own financial benefit. It focused on asbestos and silicosis litigations, securities litigation, the tobacco settlements, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In its closing statements, InJustice tells how each man found himself facing his own judicial woes.
Here is the problem with InJustice. It focuses on the exceptions rather than the rules. Kelly’s program may show the corrupt tactics of Scruggs (judicial bribery), Lerach (concealing illegal payments to clients), and Weiss (conspiracy to pay off plaintiffs), but using three examples to besmirch the reputation of a noble profession and all of its attorneys who, at considerable expense and substantial risk, represent the causes of the injured and disabled against wrongdoing Goliath corporations and their insurance companies. These are the same corporations that try will use their considerable economic power to lie, cheat, delay justice to and discredit honest, injured/disabled citizens every day, in every way. Since these corporate interests can’t beat these outstanding lawyers in court, they have embarked on a deceptive public smear campaign that includes this documentary, the aforementioned “citizens against” groups, “tort reform associations”, massive campaign contributions to politicians and judges, and lobbying efforts, all to deny you, the average citizen, who had the audacity of getting seriously injured by one of their products or insured’s.
Nobody is defending the three attorneys featured in the documentary. The reader should note, however, that the legal system took care of these three lawyers; they got caught, were disgraced, disbarred, and imprisoned by the very system that InJustice complains about. Three corrupt individuals, who were appropriately dealt with by their own profession and by the criminal justice system, are a reason to suggest that the entire system is damaged? As anti-justice spokesperson, John Stossel, would say “give me a break”.
The legal system brought down these three men; the legal profession actually has mechanisms in place to police and punish ethical violations. Contrast that with large corporations and insurance companies; when was the last time you heard of a corporation in trouble for ethics violations or rip-offs, being turned in by other corporations? Whistle-Blower statutes were created for the sole purpose of assisting citizens to expose fraud in the corporate world because big business is incapable of policing itself.
Class action litigation is a powerful tool that permits individual citizens to assemble their collective power and use that power to fight the corrupt Goliath corporations. Melvin Weiss said this in his apology statement:
“It is very important to preserve this unique legal resource for the benefit of victims of wrongdoing affecting the masses, who historically have been under-served in so many ways.”
If InJustice leaves you believing corporations are the victims, remember who partially funded and promoted the project – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce and tort reformers are engaged in a battle fight to make sure that corporations that injure, maim, disable, or kill people through their own carelessness and wrongdoing are never held accountable. These corporations and the Chamber would rather embark on an expensive “blame the lawyers, blame the victims” campaign than spend dollars on safety and compensation for those who lives they have changed forever.
InJustice does everything in its power to paint a fraudulent picture of the civil justice system. In reality, though, tort reformers want to prevent legitimate, innocent victims from pursuing serious claims of neglect and damage by shielding corporations from lawsuits. Tort reformers blame the high cost of insurance and health care on ‘frivolous’ law suits; yet ‘frivolous’ (worthless) lawsuits are not the target of this intellectually dishonest campaign. “Tort reform” has been around for over twenty years. It has not decreased the cost of anything, not health care, not insurance. No savings have been passed down to the consumers; no jobs have been created. One possible benefit? Perhaps it has created minimal increases in the bonuses of corporate executives.
You see folks, tort reform saves you absolutely nothing; it cost you dearly by shifting the financial burdens of large corporations to you, the taxpayers. InJustice takes a few, very isolated, examples and attempts to depict a failed system. But, what is the real Injustice? Is it Kelly’s or that perpetrated by corrupt corporations and insurance companies against our injured and disabled citizens? A film called Injustice was a good idea; unfortunately, a biased, corporately funded, film maker chose the wrong side.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.