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Verdicts on 'Suing to Settle'

November 02, 2002

I started to do the predictable slow burn until I got to the truly outrageous part of "Lawyers Who Sue to Settle" (Oct. 26) -- that by a 2-1 decision the 2nd District Court of Appeal put the burden of proof on the defendant to prove that a substance is not dangerous. This is a fallacy in logic so blatant that one would almost have to fault L.A. attorney Morse Mehrban if he didn't take advantage of this judicial incompetence.

This is akin to saying, "Prove space aliens don't exist, or pay me $20,000." If somehow I could comb the universe and turn over every rock, finding no evidence of aliens, how would I prove they weren't hiding from me? Or that they don't dematerialize when someone is looking for them? How many and what kind of tests could a couple of dentists perform to prove that small amounts of mercury don't cause harm to anybody, under any circumstances, either now or in the future? Can't be done. Just pay the toll and try to dodge the next judicial speed trap.

But the real villain in this article is the public, which voted for Proposition 65 without ever looking at the damage to California businesses. It's a lot more than the cost of a little sign by the front door. And Mehrban's activities are just the nickel-and-dime stuff. Let's hope the public will at least partially atone for this mistake by voting out these judges who seemed to have slept through their freshman logic class.

Lawrence E. Soza

Covina

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I am a practicing attorney greatly troubled by your article. My clients are mostly small businesses, like the victims of the lawsuits you described.

Proposition 65, Mehrban's favorite legal weapon, was intended to provide a clean environment and healthy food. However, Mehrban's lawsuits produce only warning labels no one reads and a paycheck for himself, paid for by the very consumers Mehrban was supposed to have been protecting.

Virtually all the lawyers I know work very hard to benefit our clients. But it's easy for the public to think that all lawyers are as cynical as Mehrban, even while our politicians fail to reform laws that encourage the kind of legal piracy you describe. The result is declining public respect for lawyers, while bad laws stay on the books.

Erik Gunderson

Manhattan Beach

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Mehrban suffers from a condition found all too often in his profession: lack of ethics. Lawyers have robbed billions from industry and government, and the people who end up paying for this are the taxpayers and consumers. From the little $2,000 workers' compensation claim that will cost $10,000 to defend and has no merit to the civil rights suits that make sure business pays wages and offers promotions based on race and sex rather than merit, we all lose in the long run.

These lawyers have helped to create a society of people who believe that whatever happens to them is the responsibility of others. I'm sure that there are almost as many hard-working, dedicated lawyers who are just as filled with outrage at this situation as I am. Perhaps with their help we can return to respect for the profession that is supposed to defend our rights and not abuse them.

Judy McLaughlin

Simi Valley

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I am a practicing attorney in the area of children's rights. Your article regarding Mehrban made me ashamed. Nowhere does he communicate any benefit he has obtained for the public, whether through his efforts as counsel or through the nonprofit organization led by his mother. There are many hard-working and dedicated attorneys in our community who have made great efforts to both raise the standards of the legal profession and confer legal benefits on the community. Why not profile them?

Sanford Jossen

Manhattan Beach

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