If justice isn’t about fairness, then who’s running the asylum?

Why do you attend law school?I’m reading cases in which lawyers have sued employers and insurance companies for ‘bad faith’ after deliberately failing or refusing to pay weekly and medical benefits to workers following a work injury; and it’s a dismal read. It’s like looking into a long deep trench littered with corpses. No lawyer on our side of the fence can seem to crack the code on how to win against the fourth branch of government, the insurance industry. They are literally bullet proof, absolutely immune from being held accountable and they know it; so they act even more callused towards the people who built this country and who built the buildings where insurance executives count and store all those insurance premium dollars.

Which leads me to ask the question, who is running the asylum?

In my opinion our Supreme Court doesn't get it; the Justices don't seem to appreciate what’s out of balance and why they are getting tossed off the bench by the general public that is pissed off with how "justice" is being dispensed in this state. Over the past ten years the Court applied tort reform principles in a way that allowed jurors to do whatever they wanted, even when it seemed to defy common sense and good morals. Allow me to prove my point. As an example farm machinery is worth the investment dollars to a farmer, but in Iowa a child can be worth nothing to her parents who invested time, energy and income to raise the child. If you’re a parent you are asking how that can be allowed, but it is allowed. The Iowa law allows it. Hard to believe which makes me ask who is running the asylum?

If it’s not the Courts, then who is running this asylum? Jurors? The general public? Why was it we went to law school?

If they are then jurors along with the general public start to wonder how they somehow became in charge of the asylum.

But let’s get it straight, the general public doesn't want to be in charge of the asylum; they want the judges and justices to dispense justice even when it's characterized as "judicial activism" and even when they might not agree with the outcome. As a member of the general public I can say we don’t trust each other and we trust an angry mob even less. What’s going on with the gay marriage opinion is not judicial activism it is simply a mugging of the Court by an angry mob.

The underlying principle everyone believes is that the Courts are fair and that justice equals fairness. So farm tractors and other farm equipment are worth the purchase price, but the lives of children worthless, there is no other conclusion one can reach except that the Courts are not doing the job we appointed them to do. After all it’s the job the Justices were hired to do, appointed to take control of and to make sure justice and fairness remained in balance. If I can’t count on the Courts to maintain a civil balance of power, then what can I count on?

This imbalance started more than 10 years ago. I knew the Court was in trouble the day a District Court judge said to me, “Justice is not about fairness.” You can’t really mean that. Seriously please tell me you don’t mean it.

Well I guess you have your wish because now nothing is in balance, not even the checks and balances of our government. The Court now does its job and the justices get tossed from their job. Fair? Hell no it’s not fair, not even close to being fair, but remember it was you who said justice isn’t about fairness.

And when justice isn’t fair the general public starts asking, “Who then is in charge of the asylum?”

Over a bowl of soup at the General Store my wife intently listened as I read her the holdings in a long line of workers ’ compensation–bad faith cases and towards the end of the 5th case she asked, “It sounds like the insurance industry is so powerful in Iowa, that they’ve become the 4th branch of government.” She constantly says things that remind me why I married her. Guys always should marry up; the day you ask a smarter woman to marry you is a day you’ve made a good decision.  She chose to stay home and take care of her two girls and the legal system is that much poorer for her not attending law school and becoming a practicing lawyer. She’d make one hell-of-an advocate for the working class. But let me get back to the asylum because today it’s really bugging me.

When the Court acts in a way that allows justice to appear weak and ineffectual, the judicial branch hands the keys to the asylum to people like the guy from up in Sioux City who is acting like he’s running the courts. When this occurs the general public thinks it is running the asylum and they begin to believe not only that they have the power to toss Justices off the Court for nothing other than a decision they don’t like, but even scarier the public somehow thinks this is a good idea. Don’t be fooled folks; tossing Justices will have the effect of watering down the intellectual capital we have invested in our judicial system. Smart and successful lawyers will not apply for judicial appointments when they know the job is not safe. The message is clear, do your job, the way you were taught in law school and if we don’t like the ruling you get tossed off the bench. Which lawyer in their right mind would apply for that job? Not the successful ones, that’s for sure. Only the lawyers who aren’t having success in practicing law will apply because some income is better than low income.

In my opinion that’s what is wrong with this system of justice. The perception is that it’s no longer about fairness.

To stop this nonsense the Court needs to take back the role of the enforcer of fairness. Consider the inequality of tort reform that allowed an 11 year old girl’s life to be ruled worthless in the eyes of the Court system but will pay the State of Iowa $20,000 for road kill. (Follow this link to page 18, Iowa DNR brochure on road kill. And then follow this link and read the decision allowing a jury to assess no damages for parental consortium after the death of their 11 year old daughter.) How does that even remotely make sense? What the justices allowed by way of tort reform created an imbalance in our system of what justice is allowing to be branded as “fair”. That’s not fair; Jerrica’s life at 11 could never have zero value to her parents who invested thousands and thousands of dollars in making her what she was. How can a vibrant young girl’s life be worth nothing, while a poached deer carcass can be valued at $20,000? Even Iowa law assumes life, all lives, have a minimum value of $150,000. Think I’m wrong? Then consider that if you drove drunk, causing a collision with a serial killer that you’d be paying his estate $150,000 per Iowa law.

Vehicular Homicide: Mandatory 25 years imprisonment; Fine of up to $10,000 but not less than $1,000 plus 32% surcharge, court costs, $125 Law Enforcement Initiative Surcharge and $10 DARE surcharge; $150,000 restitution to victim’s estate; substance abuse evaluation and treatment if recommended; 6 year license suspension. Judge may not give probation or defer judgment. Prison sentence must be imposed.

Who ever thought this reasoning was sound? Not me. So what happens when nonsense is somehow intellectualized and common sense tossed aside?

In the end we have people like you-know-who thinking they are running the asylum.

A judicial system without fairness is no longer functioning properly. In the legal area referred to as “bad faith insurance practices”, fairness is way out of balance. The insurance industry has too much power in their hands and is functioning as if they were the 4th branch of government.

In the end the general public expects the Court to dispense justice in a way that demonstrates fairness to the common man; and when it doesn’t they ask, “Why isn’t justice about fairness? How can that be fair?

You're right to ask that question and your next question will always be. Who pray tell is running the asylum? 

Steve Lombardi
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Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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