Impeachment

Virtue itself turns to vice, being misapplied.

Romeo and Juliet

It is probably incumbent on us lawyers to speak now about the ongoing impeachment proceedings, proceedings which seek to remove a duly elected president of the United States from office. I think most folks would agree that President Trump is a disgusting human being, at best a con man. Whatever good his is accomplishing, e.g. appointing good judges and stopping the Balkanization of America, stems from epedience rather than principal. His dismanteling of Obama Care is, for want of a better word, an unconscionable plea to the worst in the American character. His protectionist trade policies are preventing the rising of the world’s boat, hurting everyone. President Trump said in the runup to the 2016 election, that he would not honor the results unless he won, and he is likely to say the same about the 2020 election. And his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens are, as pointed out by the Wall Street Journal, most disgusting.

BUT, he is the duly elected president of the United States and the present effort to remove him from office is clearly based more on anger at his policies than on his commission of any high crime or misdemeanor. The unbelievable speed of the ongoing impeachment process (this is written on December 15, 2019) does not allow for the creation of a record which would justify impeachment. There may be cause to impeach, but that cause is not knowable from clear and convincing evidence in the record. America can only hope that reason prevails and the present efforts to impeach him fail.

Government Procurement

Front page news today (October 26, 2019) is that the Feds have decided to give Microsoft 10 billion dollars to help with cloud storage of data. Which means, of course, that we taxpayers will be out the $10 billion. The issue here is, among others, whether government employees or private contractors should do the work. Sometimes, as is the case when, say, the school district buys computers or toilet paper or some such, we absolutely must use private contractors. But sometimes, and this appears to be the case with the Microsoft contract, the project could be better handled by having the government do it directly. It is illusory to claim that the government is small if its work is done by contracted third parties. The Soil Conservation Service is an example. That work is now done by government employees, but, no doubt, it could be contracted out to third parties. If so, the politicians could proudly point to a smaller government, but not to a smaller cost. There would be no savings to the taxpayer.

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More on Vail

For reasons that escape me, the Nevada State Bar holds its annual convention outside of Nevada. This year Vail, last year Chicago, year before that Austin. Next year New Orleans. By careful budgeting, I generally am able to attend these annual meetings. The topics discussed are generally quite relevant to my practice.

This year, for example, one of the main topics was women and their recent emergence as a dominant force in the Nevada legislature. The question? Were the thousand of new laws passed this year different from laws that would have been passed by a male-dominated legislature?

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Attorney Fees

At this weekend’s Nevada State Bar convention in Vail, Colorado, one of the speakers hit upon a topic dear to the heart of clients and their lawyers. The speaker, a professor at Georgetown law school, started his lecture with maps. Yes, maps. He pointed out how the law is much like a map, in that the client and his lawyer go from place to place. But, unlike maps, there is little in the way of fee reference points. The lawyer simply says something like: “I will charge you $600 per hour but, since I have no clue how hard the other side will fight, I can’t fix the ultimate fee at this time.” So the client can’t budget or assess whether to settle or proceed. If its not a life-changing dispute, the client will often just capitulate or try to represent himself.

The professor told us attendees that help was on the way in the form of analytics…computer programs that show the average high and the average low number of attorney hours for that kind of dispute. I bought one of those programs and plan to learn to use it soon. Fairness to both the lawyer and the client involves some way of knowing the unknowable. At least its worth a try. I will report as I learn how to use the program.