Chief Justice Warren has enraged lawyers by saying that 50 percent of them are not competent to practice in a courtroom. The American Bar Assn., reacting angrily, said only 20 percent of the lawyers now involved in courtroom litigations are unqualified for such service.
The Chief, who has been complaining about court loads in the past several years, is trying to figure out ways of resolving the traffic jam. While I am in sympathy with him on the issue. I'm not sure what he wants to do about it. If his figure is correct, and most of us are willing to take it on face value, the next question is, "Should we prevent from taking trial cases those lawyers who are incompetent and leave the courtrooms open to those who know what they're doing?" I would assume that is what Mr. Burgler is driving at.
If it is, then I'm afraid he's worng. It isn't the bad lawyer who are screwing up to the justice system in this country - It's the good lawyers know how to postpone a case and string it out twice as long as necessary. They know how to file every conceive motion, and eventually make every known or unknown appeal. A competent first-class lawyers can tie a case up in knots, not only for the jury but for the judge as well. If you have two competent lawyers on opposite sides, a trail that should take three days could easily last six months, and there isn't a thing anyone can do about it.
I know many competent lawyers and, while all of them hope justice will prevail, their idea of justice is to win the case no matter how much it costs the client or the state. It is they who are jamming up the courts and making it difficult to hold a fair and speedy trial.
On the other hand, an incompetent lawyer is a friend of the court. In many cases he will present his case so badly that it is no problem for the judge to throw it out on the first day.
A trial lawyer who doen't know what he's doing has no idea how to stall. He knows none of the fine points of the law that would force a judge to recess for 48 hours to study them. He is capable of questioning a witness for any length of time and because he does not know how to cross-examine a witness, he usually says, "I have no questions, your honor," thus speeding up the wheels of justice.
A bad lawyer is actually a boom to society. His fees are usually lower because he doesn't know to sustain a trail to keep the clock running. A judge has no compunction to shut him off when he presents irrelevant evidence. A good lawyer can usually prove irrelevant evidence is relevant, and in doing so make a fool out of the judge.
Judges love incompetent lawyers because they have no fear of being overruled by a higher court since the case probably won't be appealed.
But when a competent lawyer is litigating, the judge is doubly careful on every ruling he makes so he won't look alike a dummy when the good lawyers goes over his head to appeal.
So, while Mr. Burger's heart is in the right place, he is making a big mistakes by advocating that incompetent trial lawyers be kept out of the courts.
It is the able lawyers who should not be permitted in the courtroom since they are the ones who are doing all the damage.
It was William Shakespear who wrote in "Henry VI" "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." In the interest of speeding up justice I think this should be amended to apply only to competent trial lawyers. I believe the bad ones should be allowed to live and multiply.