ATTORNEY General Griffin B. Bell warned in a speech in San Francisco that an "explosion of lawsuits has plunged federal courts into a crisis that is already hurting the quality, of justice people receive."
What he didn't say was that lawsuits were also overwhelming state, county and city courtrooms.
The reason is simple, but it is anyone's guess.
There was a time when a town had one or two lawyers who were very respected citizens, and you only went to see them when you were going to buy property or draw up a will.
But now practically everyone in the country has either a brother-in-law, a son, a daughter, a niece or nephew who is a lawyer.
It stands to reason that they must be kept busy, and if possible, the business should stay in the family.
Let me give you an example. Mrs. Givern has just arrived at her son's for Thanksgiving dinner. She is limping.
"Why are you limping, Mom?"
"I slipped on the ice in front of McGooley's lawyer nephew hears this and takes out his yellow legal pad. "McGooley's Hardware Store. Why that's negligence of the highest order! We'll have to get you to a doctor right away so he can testify you suffered from extreme pain loss of your right leg."
"It's the left leg," Mrs. Givern's says. "And I feel fine. I don't want to go to a doctor. I just want to have my Thanksgiving dinner."
"But you've got to go to the doctor. His testimony will be very important in the lawsuit."
"I don't want to sue Mr. McGooley. He's a nice man."
"We're not going to sue Mr. McGooley. We're not going to sue his insurance company. McGooley has to be insured."
"But won't we get Mr. McGooley into trouble?"
"We'll have to prove McGooley was negligent in not cleaning off the ice."
"On Thanksgiving Day?"
"That's McGooley's problem. Listen, Charley Efrom is McGooley's insurance company's lawyer. I'll call him now."
"I feel fine," Mrs. Givern protests.
The nephew dials the phone. "Charley, I think I've got a good one for us. My aunt just slipped on the ice in front of McGooley's Hardware Store. We won't settle for less than $25,000 . . .
That's what I thought you'd say. Well, we're going to demand a jury trial. It could tie the both of us for months . . . I knew you wouldn't mind being bothered on Thanksgiving Day to hear the good news."
"Is Charley mad at me?" asked Mrs. Givern.
"Mad? He's thrilled. It made his dinner. He says he'll probably countersue if any damage has been done to McGooley's sidewalk."
Finally, everyone sits down to dinner. Mrs. Givern's son carves the turkey with an electric knife. The blade flies off and hits Mrs. Givern's daughter, Harriet, in the head, cutting her ear slightly.
Everyone rushes to Harriet. "Never mind Harriet," the nephew yells. "I want the name of that electric knife company. They'll rue the day they let that carver out of the factory."
These are only examples of what is going on in the country since relatives started becoming lawyers.
If Griffin Bell really wants to ease up on the court's calenders he's going to have to get Congress to pass a law making it a felony for an attorney to solicit business from any member of his own family.