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Fair Trial Regardless of Who's Paying

January 02, 1994

* Your article ("Jury Rejects Bicyclist's $23-Million Injury Suit" Dec. 16) raises some valid and telling points regarding lawyer and jury responsibilities. Neither the plaintiff nor her lawyer expressed sour grapes about losing; instead, they recognized that they could not produce enough evidence to the jury that the highway was defective. Both the lawyer for the City of Huntington Beach and (the) plaintiff's lawyer agreed that the jurors looked at the evidence carefully and refused to let their emotions sway them. This is exactly what juries are instructed and sworn to do and exactly what they almost always do.

Erroneous verdicts, few as they may be, are often caused by overzealous attorneys who are more interested in winning than in a fair trial. Your article contained a classic example of such irresponsibility, i.e., Santa Ana City Atty. Edward J. Cooper's remark that "juries just seem to forget that the taxpayers are footing the bill--and that they are taxpayers." In over four decades of practice, I know of no judge who would either allow Mr. Cooper to present such an argument or would give such a prejudicial instruction to a jury.

Mr. Cooper should respect the difficult task that the jury accomplished, as did both the plaintiff's and defendant's attorneys. He should also be thankful that when his client is in the courtroom, the rule is not who is footing the bill; the rule is that his client is entitled to the same "fair and impartial consideration and to justice by the same standards" as all other parties in the courtroom.

RICHARD L. FRANCK

Los Angeles

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