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Art Buchwald

Debating the $721,000 Meese Bailout

February 17, 1985

"Hear ye, hear ye. In the case of the American taxpayers vs. Ed Meese's lawyers, the court is now in session."


"Your honor, as counsel for the American taxpayers, I hold in my hand a bill for legal services for $721,000. We believe this is too high a price to pay to make sure that the next attorney general of the United States is not a crook."


"Sustained. Counsel will stick with the facts."

"The facts, your honor, are that Mr. Meese's attorneys charged my clients $250 an hour to defend him against charges of conflict of interest in helping get government jobs for individuals who loaned him money. We feel these fees are totally out of line with President Reagan's vow to cut spending in the government."

"Objection, your honor. President Reagan's promises have nothing to do with my client's legal fees."

"Sustained. Counsel will refrain from mentioning Mr. Reagan unless it has something to do with the case."

"There isn't a lawyer in America worth $250 an hour, your honor. . . . "

"Objection, your honor. Counsel has no right to decide what lawyers are worth."

"Let's see where he's going with his argument."

"The Justice Department policy--a policy I hope Mr. Meese will continue--has a ceiling of $75 an hour on what a private lawyer can charge in a government case. Why doesn't it apply in this case?"

"Your honor, the Ethics in Government Act, under which Mr. Meese was investigated, places no restrictions on hourly rates. If a self-respecting lawyer in Washington charged less than $250 an hour, he would become the laughingstock of the capital."

"It is so noted. Counsel for the taxpayers will continue."

"Thank you, sir. American taxpayers resent the fact that Mr. Meese's attorneys are socking it to them. I wonder if learned counsel would submit a $721,000 bill if they knew Mr. Meese was paying it out of his own pocket."

"Objection. That is a theoretical question."


"Your honor, counsel for Mr. Meese has charged my clients $250 an hour for conversations with the press over a period of 5 1/2 months. Why should the taxpayer pay for attorneys' meetings with reporters?"

"I can answer that, your honor. Mr. Meese was being tried in the press as well as investigated by the special prosecutor. It was necessary to ensure accurate reporting of allegations against him, or else Meese would take over the Justice Department under a dark cloud. It's in the taxpayers' interest to have a U.S. attorney general who is squeaky clean."

"Your honor, just because Mr. Meese was cleared of criminal charges against him doesn't necessarily make him qualified to be attorney general. What about his bad judgment?"

"Objection. Mr. Meese's bad judgment has nothing to do with our legal bill."

"Your honor, I say it does. If Mr. Meese hadn't shown such extraordinarily bad judgment in the first place, the taxpayer would not be stuck for $721,000."

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