Israel Weinstock's "Bye-Bye L-i-e-Tigation" is the powerful story of the failure of the New York State and Federal Courts to prevent arrogance, hubris, influence and money from rendering gross injustice.
In recounting the case of a lifetime in the law -- a career that spans more than 40 years -- Weinstock shows how judges overwhelmed with work yet keeping banker's hours, were repeatedly lied to and deceived by well-connected and powerful New York lawyers and firms who trade on undeserved reputations. And he shows the frequency and the facility with which it was all accomplished -- and the lack of penalty even in the most obvious situations -- as firms big and little cheated to allow the ends to justify the means.
The fact that these tactics were particularly prevalent in a case involving big stakes is even more astounding.
We all know of injustices arising from the Court's limitations and rules. All of us have our suspicions about the death penalty, O.J., Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Gore v. Bush, and so on. And of course, we all recognize that no system involving people could ever be perfect.
But, as Weinstock shows, we are at -- or past -- the point of critical mass, especially on the civil side. Judges routinely accepted the word of powerful, influential and politically connected lawyers, ignoring the evidence, even when it was extraordinary, astonishing, and uncontradicted. Confessions, pleadings, and sworn affidavits were derided as meaningless when litigants and their well paid lawyers changed their tunes at the eleventh, twelfth, and even thirteenth hour.
Even admitted perjurers were exalted by these judges.
At the end of the day, it seemed that if the right pressure -- political, influential, or reputational -- could be brought to bear on a judge, any result was still possible, notwithstanding the merits, the evidence, or even the fact that judges were lied to their faces. But that decision is ultimately for the reader to judge for himself or herself based on the facts presented.
This story paints an iconic picture of a very basic flaw in our judicial system. Contrary to the old maxim that one cannot lie to all of the people all of the time, in our current judicial system, both litigants and their attorneys can lie to all of the people all of the time with total impunity. It is common knowledge that prosecutors rarely pursue perjury in civil cases. Litigants and some unscrupulous attorneys, including mega law firms, know that fact. They therefore can and do lie with total confidence and comfort that they will never be called to account. Prosecutors could remove that level of confidence: removing that level of certainty (of not being prosecuted) might induce litigants and their attorneys to refrain from out and out perjury. Regrettably, no such illegal and antisocial behavior is discouraged. On the contrary, knowledge that lies will never be the subject of punishment have encouraged unscrupulous attorneys to lie their way through litigation.
Indeed, in this story, a federal judge had found that a litigant had provided false sworn statements to proper questions. The judge stated that not only the one providing false answers but anyone that had anything to do with flouting the Court's Orders was going to pay a price. The federal judge referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney for investigation. The only one who has thus far paid a price is the person victimized by the perjurer.
Even judges need not concern themselves with making findings of facts which are not only unsupported by the evidence but contradicted by the evidence presented. Thus, judges can also distort the truth. The analysis of a decision in this story is annexed. It is a line by line analysis which demonstrates that the Court's decision was totally contradicted by the evidence. The facts of the case were to be ignored; the desired decision had to be made irrespective of the facts presented. Thus, the facts, exhibits, and evidence became irrelevant. In other words, the Courts have become basically casinos -- with odds worse for ordinary folk than Vegas or even the lotto. And so, this cautionary tale comes with a moral: we are approaching anarchy in the civil system.
The author notes that when he started the practice of law more than 40 years ago, he did so expecting that everyone had a fundamental right to expect that there exists in our society a world of public and private institutions that would support us in our just claims and reject the unjust. Regrettably, that understanding has been shattered. In revealing the circumstances of the litigation involving the major law firms described herein, he is upholding the highest calling of the legal profession by tackling the entrenched members of the "establishment." Finally, the author shows the blasé attitude that the United States Attorney's office – the prosecutor sworn to uphold the law – has toward perjury and hubris in cases involving the arrogant and the powerful. A detailed account of the events described in L-I-T-tigation – which has been linked to these pages – went unanswered and apparently ignored by the very person charged with preventing events like this from recurring. The time has come for the author, as a lawyer, to stand up despite all of the risks and all of the things that standing up entail.