Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Iraq: Why Iraqis fight the unresponsive American model

The American model of government is unresponsive. Let's consider one discussion of a case analysis. This is a situation where the corporate board or municipality ["client"] has asked a law firm to analyze the case.

This note outlines the implications of "analyzes a case this far into the situation." The results should give some insight to why many dislike the American "model": It is unresponsive.

Analyze the case: 60 billable hours; 4 hrs per page

One of the things management-partners "should" do prior to the case is to evaluate the merits, risks, and problems. This is the first step. Mind you, this is something the client should already have firmly in mind before walking through the door.

So imagine the surprise to find 60 billable hours assigned to do a cursory job, that is late, and really a sign not of analysis, but of a client who is really in trouble.

This is essentially one of those questions: Can we afford to continue stonewalling, or will the public find out and result in someone losing their job in the next election; or have we failed to comply with the "use every excuse to do nothing"-book:

comprehensive evaluation letter, analyzing the lawsuit from every conceivable angle. Good and bad witnesses, sympathy levels for the plaintiff in front of a future jury, our assessment of the competency of opposing counsel, damages, legal analysis of every single count named in the lawsuit, detailed chronology of every relevant fact leading to the lawsuit, etc. The entire evaluation was about 25 pages, single-spaced. [Split URL for track-back -- First second and third]

Between the lines

In other words, "the simple approaches" that might have been otherwise solvable by a simple conversation between the public citizen and the city counsel or board of directors for the corporation, has not shifted.

Also, the attempts to have a simple meeting have failed; the desire to have a reasonable solution and get treated with respect have gone out the window. And the government has once again proven it is unresponsive.

We pay this guy for 60 hours of work, for something that the client should already have in mind before walking through the door. What's worse: The client not knowing; or the client asking for this information this far into the situation; or the fact that the firm is now actually reviewing this matter this late in the game?

Client public relations problems: Rebuff the media questions with "we can't discuss" because we're in litigation

More troubling is that this is so routine, that the local media doesn't even bother looking into the matter. SO much for checks and balances. Mind you, nobody really cares about checks and balances when you're dealing with government: Local government's goal is to hide the problem, not discuss the issues with the media; and if needed threaten "no contact" with the media in order to bury this problem.

Sometimes the worst thing to do is to have a lawsuit. Rather than believing this is sunlight, the municipality can actually bury the whole affair. When the settlements are non-public, all the 42 USC 1983-related efforts are for naught: The public really doesn't get that much insight into what systemic problems there are; nor any reliable feedback on the recurring human relations problems that are buried with "private settlements."

Indeed, they have some old-crusty people in municipal government because the catalyst of public oversight isn't there: They hide evidence, lie in the court, and play stupid about things that are well-known-patterns of misconduct, rebuffing complaints, and patterns of conduct designed to do the opposite of what the regulations require or the statutes state. What's worse is when come to an injunction, and the court says, "Well, you can't prove that there's the chance of likely future misconduct, so there's no basis to issue an injunction."

Gosh, how on earth can one credibly believe, Mr Crusty Judge, that there would not likely be future misconduct as the defendant-municipality has clearly not responded to simply requests for relief, response, or discussion? Some magical being from Mars is going to arrive and say, "Despite your entrenched bad-habits, and your lack of responsivness, it should really be wise to do the right thing"...? I don't think so. They're going to keep doing what doesn't work: Being unresonsive. Mind you, if there's no court order, the media will never have the information it needs to publicize the facts during October.

In other words, caselaw has essentially stacked the odds in favor of "do nothing", all the while the objective of counsel is to well, "do nothing." That's not responsive government: That's how criminal defendants are supposed to act before the government; it should not be how the public-government-institution should be reacting with the public-client.

So, to summarize: Government in the United States has two modes: Be unresponsive and unhelpful at the initial stages; and then during litigation use "litigation" as the excuse to do nothing. This is a lesson for all Iraqis: The American model is not based on solutions, but based on inaction, unresponsiveness, and ineffectualness.

  • Vulnerability of clients

    They have clients that are being taken advantage of. Clients' in-house counsel city attorney or corporate general counsel] isn't providing a ready-source of legal advice; nor are there day-to-day status meetings to mitigate these risks as the events unfolds. Mind you, the city attorney isn't a litigator to defend the city against civil lawsuits; they typically hire an outside litigator that works closely with the insurance company.

    But the fact that the city has launched this from the "simple discussion around the table" to "requiring greater legal efforts" shows how high the wall is in America to getting simple things done. Mind you, this doesn't even address the poor training, failure to train, and procedural non-sense [read ="maze"] that the public routinely has to go through.

    In short the Client [that didn't plan, and is in trouble], is now in trouble again. So, the lesson is: Those who fail to plan, are also going to be taken advantage of again by the attorneys.

    Looks also like the municipality-client really doesn't have very good relations with the community--in that they are "this far into a mess" and suddenly realize, "Let's do an assessment: Should we litigate; and what factors do we have in our favor that we could use as leverage during a settlement negoation--forget the "benefits" of bpulic disclosure--let's bury this with a private settlement and the voters-stockholders will never find out."

    Note: The plaintiff [public citizen, shareholder] has had to put an attorney on retainer, and clients' attorney is doing an evaluation not just of the case but of the opposing counsel. This means that the problem has mushroomed, and very little has been done in-house to fix this problem that the plaintiff [public citizen] is getting tired of dealing with.

    More evidence of an unresponsive system in place. And this nation wonders why the Iraqis hate Americans and democracy.

    And the leaders of the world wonder why Americans don't bother believing government. Because local government have no timely-responsive system that imposes leverage on them for being unresponsive.

    Customer service is merely lip service, a unique selling proposition that is not practiced, as evidenced by "what is required to get government to respond." Even when they do, it only comes after considerable cost, time, and effort.

    That is not responsive. And that is why Iraqis fight America. The American system is unresponsive.