While everyone’s been debating the adequacy of Americans’ access to health-care services and the functionality of John Roberts’s brain, they’ve completely neglected the gross inadequacy of our access to the services of another critical profession: law.
Nowhere in the Constitution will you find a right to medical care, but you will find the right to a trial if accused of a crime. The entrance to the Supreme Court promises “Equal Justice under Law” to every single one of us, but the current organizational structure of the law profession makes a mockery of that promise. The plain fact is that the better your lawyer is, the better you’re going to fare in any legal proceeding—even when your life is at stake. This is both outrageous and intolerable. Fortunately, it is easily fixed.
The simple solution to our criminal and civil injustice system is to implement a “single-payer” system of legal-service provision—a National Legal Service, if you will. In order to make legal representation affordable to all, the government should establish a set fee-for-service for every possible legal procedure, from writing wills to criminal defense. To prevent injustice through the purchase of an unfair level of legal-service quality, the private practice of law must be prohibited. Social justice requires that all lawyers be reimbursed directly by the federal government, with no fees (or perhaps a minimal co-pay, such as $10 per case) paid by individuals. I propose that the fee schedule be determined by a review panel consisting of one representative chosen by the House of Representatives, one representative chosen by the Senate, and the Attorney General of the United States, with the chairmanship of this committee rotating annually among the three members. Hourly billing must not be allowed under any circumstances.
No longer will the wealthy be able to literally get away with murder. No longer will the poor and the middle class have to rely on contingency-fee representation in order to sue those who have harmed them. The system of high-powered attorneys on retainer—which in and of itself intimidates those who might dare to take on powerful interests—will be eliminated completely.
The promise of equality before the law can only be fulfilled through this plan. Lives are at stake. Justice hangs in the balance. We must not hesitate.
I’m sure there’s some kind of tax on lawyers that can be set up to make this proposal all nice and constitutional.