Larry Klayman, tort reformer.

Larry Klayman, tort reformer.

Larry Klayman, tort reformer.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
April 3 2002 5:13 PM

Larry Klayman Decries Evils of Litigation!

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Larry Klayman has discovered the evils of America's litigation explosion. Klayman is the chairman of Judicial Watch, the conservative ethics-in-government foundation that spent most of the 1990s suing members of the Clinton administration omnidirectionally. (West Wing fans will recognize Klayman as the prototype for Harry Claypool.) Judicial Watch's "Summary of Current Cases" includes a Who's Who of Clinton sex accusers: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Linda Tripp, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Dolly Kyle Browning. More recently, Klayman has diversified his portfolio a bit, taking on House Majority Whip Tom DeLay over certain fund-raising practices by the National Republican Congressional Committee and Vice President Dick Cheney over the secrecy of the Bush administration's energy task force. (Chatterbox predicted that Klayman would start suing Bush, incidentally.) But Judicial Watch remains primarily interested in continuing its jihad against Bill Clinton. The first half of its 2002 "State of the Union" report, ostensibly a critique of the Bush administration, knocks the Bushies for insufficiently investigating alleged vandalism by departing Clinton White House staffers, the Clinton pardons, Hillary Clinton's alleged theft of White House furniture, and Chinagate. As Chatterbox reported earlier, Klayman recently urged Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate departing Whitewater counsel Robert Ray, whom Klayman thinks did a rush job on his final Flytrap report. In a March 15 letter, Klayman complained bitterly that Ray never got around to reading 1.8 million White House e-mails.

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Can this be the same Larry Klayman from whom Chatterbox yesterday received a direct-mail solicitation decrying the American legal system for "picking the pockets of hard-working Americans, putting literally billions of dollars into the pockets of greedy lawyers, turning neighbor against neighbor and threatening to derail the rule of law"? The same Larry Klayman who writes, "The U.S. has been transformed from a nation of friends and neighbors into one of actual and potential litigants—plaintiffs and defendants," and who further complains that lawyers have goaded Americans into expecting "courts to resolve everything"? The same Larry Klayman who calculates that the U.S. legal system's cost "is growing at four times the rate of our economy"? The same Larry Klayman who thunders, "Frivolous lawsuits should be prohibited"?

One may liken the overall effect of Klayman's direct-mail sermon against frivolous lawsuits to that of a Weight Watchers commercial starring Marlon Brando or a temperance lecture given by Hunter S. Thompson. Klayman, however, seems oblivious to the irony. His direct-mail solicitation explains cheerfully that Judicial Watch is filing suit "in over 100 of the worse [sic] cases of legal corruption in the country today." Klayman's aim is to recover "more than $10 BILLION in legal fees that have been paid to corrupt lawyers and law firms." (Tort reform, he explains, "is only part of the answer.") But these lawsuits to eliminate the costly scourge of litigation are expensive. "Each lawsuit we bring costs an average $1.5 million dollars," Klayman writes. "Each month we must pay the salaries of 12 outstanding attorneys." Won't you help, with a contribution of $100, $50, or $25?

In a recent (otherwise adulatory) profile by John Berlau in Insight magazine, the conservative newsweekly put out by the Washington Times, Klayman was asked the obvious question of whether he might be contributing to the litigiousness of American society. (Chatterbox tried to phone Klayman today to pose the same question but was told he was unavailable.) Here's his answer:

I agree that society is too litigious. Americans do not sufficiently sit down and try to resolve disputes. In fact, they don't even consider discussing them until you bring a lawsuit. That's our culture—and, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way you can, No. 1, get people's attention, and No. 2, get results, is to bring a lawsuit.

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"Sometimes"?