This is in response to "Lawyers Blamed for Costly Delays" in the Real Estate section on April 21.
According to the article, Michael Tenzer, Leisure Technology's chairman, told the National Assn. of Real Estate Editors that contingency fees result in lawsuits that drive up the price of housing. Implicit in Tenzer's complaint is that such lawsuits lack merit. He said they serve only to delay projects or impede them until the builder goes broke.
First, unless the contingency lawsuit is successful, there is nothing in it for the lawyer. Not many lawyers are willing to invest hundreds of hours on the outcome of a lawsuit that lacks merit. If such lawsuits are successful, then the housing industry must be doing something wrong.
Second, contingency fees are normally found in lawsuits seeking money damages. Lawsuits that impede real estate development usually seek a court order to stop the development, not money. What will the lawyer be paid with? He cannot take one-third of a court order requiring an environmental impact statement.
More important however, is how The Times treated the subject. Eighty percent of the article pertained to subjects other than lawyers; nevertheless, The Times captioned the article on three separate pages as "Lawyers Blamed for Costly Delays," "Lawyers," and "Lawyers: House Prices." There is absolutely nothing said about lawyers on either of the two last pages.
The Times, however, chose to sensationalize the article and garnish it with Shakespeare's worn-out line--"let's kill all of the lawyers." One would expect such journalism from one of the tabloids--not from the Los Angeles Times.
For several years, Beverly Hills Bar Assn. members have acted as unpaid hearing officers for disputes arising under the Los Angeles County's condominium conversion ordinance. When did that story appear in the Real Estate section?
Through the auspices of Public Counsel, the public-interest law firm jointly sponsored by the Beverly Hills and Los Angeles County bar associations, numerous volunteer lawyers have furnished thousands upon thousands of free hours to low-income persons who were cheated out of their homes by sharp home-improvement peddlers or crooked "mortgage advisers." I do not recall seeing that story in the pages of the Real Estate section.
The Times acted irresponsibly in turning a report on the Real Estate Editors Seminar into an unjustified slap at lawyers. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
PETER M. APPLETON
Beverly Hills Bar Assn.