Thursday, May 10, 2018
Are We Now Going to Crowdsource Our Legal System?
The issue of lawyers and their money has been a constant tussle. There is a mess of policy aspects involved. Contingency fees, cash, in-kind payments, pro-bono work. In medieval times there were crimes, champerty and maintenance.
Maintenance is when a third party intervenes on behalf of one litigant against another. It usually takes the form of financial assistance with legal costs. Champerty is a similar deal only the interceding party has an agreement to share in the damages awarded at trial. Both were considered unseemly, even criminal.
What got me thinking about this stuff again was an interview I saw last night with Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti. His client was paid $130,000 by Trump fixer, Michael Cohen. Avenatti's client was suing Cohen but that civil suit was put on hold by a judge pending further developments in a possible criminal case by special counsel, Robert Mueller.
When Avenatti's lawsuit was put on hold I expected the high-priced California litigator to wing his way back to the coast to await developments. Instead he's been appearing almost daily on the American cable outlets, CNN and MSNBC, releasing periodic revelations about his target, Cohen.
Last night Avenatti was asked just who is paying for all this sideline work. His client can't afford to have a guy like that on the clock 24/7. I was kind of shocked when Avenatti volunteered that he's being paid by some crowdfunding campaign at www.crowdjustice.com. To date they've raised just over half of the target of $850,000.
I can sort of see the appeal in it. You throw a few bucks in the pot because you want to bring down Cohen and, through him, Trump. Yet there's something about it that doesn't sit well. Celebrity justice. On one hand she is up against a couple of people with very deep pockets. On the other her lawyer is using that money to make constant appearances on the cable news nets and to do research that's probably already been done far better by Robert Mueller's team.
I really wish I could better articulate my concerns. There's just this nagging something I can't put my finger on.