The American Legal System Is Broken: Can It Be Fixed?

3 01 2011

By Timothy D. Naegele[1][2]

I have been an American lawyer for 44 years.  I am a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court, the District of Columbia Bar, the State Bar of California, and the bars of other federal courts.  I have been a U.S. Senate lawyer and a lawyer at the Pentagon, and have represented more than 200 banks and other financial institutions.  I have purchased banks for our clients, and advised two States; and I testified as an expert on behalf of the FDIC in a failing bank case.  I have done essentially everything that I ever wanted to do in the law, except work at the White House; and I have attended meetings there.  In these and countless other ways, I have seen the American legal system “up close and personal.”[3]

I have two law degrees, from Berkeley and Georgetown, at opposite ends of this great country.[4] I can say without any hesitation, reservation or equivocation that the finest education I received was at Berkeley’s law school par excellence, Boalt Hall.  I was taught—to think analytically, and to write—by outstanding professors[5] who instilled in my fellow students and me a belief that the law is sacred, sacrosanct and pristine, “a shining city upon a hill.”  Since then whenever I have encountered what I perceived as legal injustices and incompetence, I have taken umbrage and railed against them, albeit generally in my own quiet ways.

John Lennon probably said it best: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  I never truly wanted to become a lawyer; that was not my life’s ambition.  I wanted to be a businessman instead, and buy and sell companies, but the Vietnam War intervened and changed my life forever.[6] I never dreamed of being a lawyer, like so many of my law school classmates at Berkeley did, which may explain why I view the profession—which so many Americans have come to despise—with a certain degree of detachment and healthy skepticism.  For example, I would not recommend the practice of law to anyone.  Among other things, the time demands and stress on young lawyers are a “family-killer,” which is why there is a high rate of divorces among members of the profession.

When my son wanted to attend law school, I encouraged him to get both a JD and an MBA, to “hedge his bets” and give him options.  When he was nearing graduation with both degrees in hand, I did my best to talk him out of practicing law.[7] Friends of mine, who have practiced law for many years and have been very successful at doing it, feel much the same way and have told their kids and others not to pursue a legal career.  Indeed, some of these friends and I have joked that we should give lectures to graduating college seniors and entering law school students, telling them what the practice of law is really all about.  If we told them the unvarnished truth, many might decide not to enter the profession.

Despite a healthy contempt for many lawyers, and judges—who are often egotistical, callous, mean-spirited, power-hungry, arrogant, self-righteous, condescending and incompetent—I have had wonderful friends over the years who are lawyers and even judges.  I have worked with them, and some have represented me, and I will always respect and be deeply indebted to them.  They are special people, who stand head-and-shoulders above others in the profession; and they are nice people as well—which may be what distinguishes them from the others.

Perhaps the most disturbing qualities about lawyers and judges are their arrogance and abuse of power, and their lack of empathy and innate legal and life skills to deal with vital human issues that come before them.  For example, lawyers who are prosecutors are often less interested in fairness and justice than they are in winning at all costs, and exercising their raw power and hurting others in the process—such as those who are innocent but are convicted anyway.[8]

Similarly, lawyers are trained in law schools to be advocates.  When they represent clients in divorce proceedings, the last things that estranged couples need are their respective lawyers “stirring the pot” to earn greater fees, and increasing the acrimony that already exists.  Also, male lawyers prey sexually on their distraught and vulnerable female clients, which should give rise to immediate disbarments but it does not.  The American legal system is broken today, inter alia, because it has often attracted the wrong type of people.[9]

Can our legal system be fixed, and will the American people come to trust and respect lawyers and judges again, and believe that justice not only exists but prevails in this great nation?  Maybe . . . if the profession is restructured, and if it attracts those people who believe that the law is sacred, sacrosanct and pristine—truly a shining city upon a hill—and they put such principles into practice.  The profession does not require saints, but it does need something different than “Law West of the Pecos by Judge Roy Bean.”  And it needs people who are different than it has been attracting: who are often driven, ruthless, unprincipled, money-hungry, and power-hungry.

© 2011, Timothy D. Naegele

[See also (1) https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/justice-and-the-law-do-not-mix/ (“Justice And The Law Do Not Mix”), (2) https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/the-united-states-department-of-injustice/ (“The United States Department of Injustice”), (3) https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/the-state-bar-of-california-is-lawless-and-a-travesty-and-should-be-abolished/ (“The State Bar Of California Is Lawless And A Travesty, And Should Be Abolished”)]


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2] The issues addressed in this article are discussed further in a partially-completed book of mine entitled, “Never Become A Lawyer.”  Its chapters include but are not limited to the following subjects: law schools, law firms, divorces, bar associations, Congress, lobbying, mergers and acquisitions, litigation, law enforcement, state governments, the federal government, judges, federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, politics, abuse of power, justice, lawyer scams, and other careers.

The book’s last chapter starts with the words:

I began writing this book with the idea of thoroughly trashing the legal profession of which I have been a member for more than 40 years, as well as the American “system of justice”—and God knows there is plenty of support for that approach.  However, the United States has many fine lawyers, including former classmates of mine at Berkeley and friends who have tried to do their very best to help others, such as those lawyers who have helped me.  Thus, in the final analysis, I endeavored to present a somewhat objective view of the profession. . . .

I assume my assessment will remain the same, or close to it, when the book is finished and published.

[3] See, e.g., http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html

[4] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/

[5] They included but were not limited to Edward C. Halbach Jr. (see, e.g.,  http://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/faculty/facultyProfile.php?facID=44), who became dean of the law school and gave me an “A” in Conflicts of Law during my last year at Boalt, which I will remember always; Sanford H. (“Sandy”) Kadish (see, e.g., http://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/faculty/facultyProfile.php?facID=61), who taught Criminal Law and became dean of the law school too; Barbara N. Armstrong, who was the first woman law professor at a major American law school (see, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UC_Berkeley_School_of_Law); Richard W. Jennings (see, e.g., http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/senate/inmemoriam/richardwjennings.htm), who taught Securities Law and came to Washington when I was a young attorney with the Senate Banking Committee, and we shared stories; and Michael (“Mike”) Heyman (see, e.g., http://www.law.berkeley.edu/php-programs/faculty/facultyProfile.php?facID=52), from whom I never took a class, but I will always remember his smiling face, and that he was a “force” for excellence at the law school and beyond (e.g., he ran the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. for many years).  A giant in the law of Torts, William L. Prosser (see, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Prosser), was at Boalt too; however, he left shortly before I arrived—although his spirit was still there.

[6] As a result of enrolling in Army ROTC as an undergraduate, I had a commission as an officer when I graduated from UCLA in January of 1963.  I wanted to attend a business school; however, I needed to work from January to September at two jobs, to earn enough money so I could afford any graduate school.  Even though UCLA’s business school had classes that I could begin right away, in January—whereas, law school classes only began in September—my choice became a law school.  The Vietnam War was raging; and the Army would defer me for law school, but would not let me work for the same amount of time before entering a business school, which is the graduate education that I really wanted to pursue.

Having become a lawyer, however, I have always tried to do my very best, and believe that I have done so.  Also, reading endless legal decisions at Boalt Hall and later at Georgetown, I learned the English language in ways that were unfathomable at the time, but have proved to be quintessentially-invaluable with respect to any skills that I have today as a writer.

The great American poet, Robert Frost, wrote a wonderful poem about life choices entitled, “The Road Not Taken,” which perhaps says it all:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

See, e.g.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_(poem)

[7] I was adamant that neither of my kids would work on Capitol Hill, because of what I had witnessed there.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/washington-is-sick-and-the-american-people-know-it/

[8] A federal official with reason to know told me that between 15-20 percent of the indictees in federal courts are probably innocent.  Some are seniors who have been charged with cheating the Social Security program, and they are scared to death, so they agree to plea bargains rather than fight for their innocence.

[9] This is true of many judges, who serve for life and cannot be removed if they are federal judges.





Washington Is Sick And The American People Know It

24 09 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

Peggy Noonan, a former presidential speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, pens regular columns for the Wall Street Journal.  In her latest, she states:

This [November’s] election is more and more shaping up into a contest between the Exhausted and the Enraged.[2]

Amen . . . and Barack Obama and his Democrats know it.  Their supporters are exhausted, disillusioned and demoralized; and many are angry at his policies such as the Afghan War.[3] His detractors and opponents are angry, livid, galvanized and motivated; and they consist of Republicans, Independents[4] and disenchanted Democrats, some of whom are part of the Tea Party movement.

The handwriting is on the wall—and the blood is in the water—that he is likely to be a one-term president.  White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is rumored to be leaving; and Obama brain truster David Axelrod will be too, probably sometime next year.  Top economic adviser Larry Summers is departing; and the list goes on and on.  While there is generally attrition in any White House staff because of the long hours and staggering workloads and pressures on families, these departures can be viewed as “rats leaving a sinking ship.”

Noonan cites Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee as saying prophetically:

The more [voters] know, the less they like Washington.

At long last, the light is shining through.  The innate wisdom of the American people is in the process of being heard and felt.

When I left Capitol Hill after working there for three and a half years, there was one four-letter word that stood out in my mind, and it still does today: “S-I-C-K.”  I vowed that neither of my kids would ever work there.  I had seen raving narcissists and demagogues who were not nice people—and equaled or surpassed those in Hollywood where I had grown up.

I saw senators and congressmen chasing and bedding female staffers between the ages of about 22-26, and wrecking their lives in the process.  When the women reached about 28, they were considered “over the hill,” and a new batch of fresh young faces would replace them.  I saw attractive young female staffers flock to the politicians like groupies are attracted to rock stars and other celebrities.  I saw lobbyists providing women for sex to important committee chairmen.

I saw power trips that were way out of proportion to the actual power wielded.  I saw senators and members of Congress pontificate on empty chamber floors, and pass legislation that often did not help anyone, but merely “congested” and “polluted” government for both the regulators and public alike.  Laws were put on the books almost ceremoniously to display motion and activity, even if they were truly bad laws that made little or no good sense—and none were ever taken off the books.  Programs were still being funded even though they had outlived their usefulness years if not decades before.

I saw lobbyists literally run Washington, because they had the skills and knowledge that the politicians did not have.  House staffs were small unless the member had seniority.  Hence, the input of lobbyists was essential to the passage of legislation.  They wrote it; and they got it passed and their clients benefited; and somehow—by hook or by crook—the politicians benefited financially or in other ways.  It was dirty, but those participating simply looked the other way.

In short, the American people, God love them, are waking up bigtime to the mess that is Washington, D.C.—a corrupt, politically-polarized toxic city.  Throw in the present economic problems that this country has not experienced since the Great Depression, which will be with us through at least the end of this decade[5], as well as Obama’s no-win Afghan War and other national security worries[6], and he and his Democrats are potentially in for a very rough ride.  Like Lyndon Johnson in 1968, it is doubtful whether Obama will be able to run in 2012, much less be reelected.[7]

Noonan cites the role of women in the coming election, and the fact they are worried about how the economy has been taking an enormous toll on their families, which will only get much much worse.  She quotes Rep. Blackburn as saying: “I look at this year as the Rage of the Bill-Paying Moms.”  Amen to that too . . . or as Sarah Palin calls them: the “Mama Grizzlies.”  And most of us know that those who are wise never mess with a mother Grizzly.

The chickens are coming home to roost in America, at least economically and politically.  Hold on tight.  It is apt to get very ugly.[8]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., http://www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2] See http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheEnragedvs.theExhausted.pdf

[3] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/are-afghanistan-iraq-and-pakistan-hopeless-and-is-the-spread-of-radical-islam-inevitable-and-is-barack-obama-finished-as-americas-president and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/obama-in-afghanistan-doomed-from-the-start/

[4] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/the-rise-of-independents/

[5] See, e.g., http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html and http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan%E2%80%99s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/

[6] See, e.g.https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/

[7] See, e.g.https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/are-afghanistan-iraq-and-pakistan-hopeless-and-is-the-spread-of-radical-islam-inevitable-and-is-barack-obama-finished-as-americas-president/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/the-speech—is-barack-obama-smoking-pot-again/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/the-end-of-barack-obama/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/barack-obama-america’s-second-emperor/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/obama-in-afghanistan-doomed-from-the-start/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/

[8] The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer has fine article about the Tea Party movement and the likely tsunami that will engulf Obama and the Democrats, which is worth reading too.  Among other things, he points out that in the bellwether state of Ohio, former President George W. Bush is preferred over Barack Obama by 50 percent to 42 percent.

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/23/AR2010092304746.html and http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/PPP_Release_OH_901.pdf








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