Sunday, November 2, 2008


Patriotism is nothing more than tribal "us versus them" bigotry.

What does it mean to be patriotic? Most people will tell you it means to love your country, but that definition is not very helpful. What part of the country does one have to love in order to be patriotic? Loving the land -- the mountains, the valleys, the lakes -- is not patriotism. If it were, I would be patriotic to Peru, Japan, Scotland and Canada, among others. I suspect I would also be patriotic to Iran, if I had the chance to go there. Obviously, that is not what patriotism means.

Patriotism cannot mean loving the current government. As I write this, George W. Bush has an approval rating of 23%. Congress' approval rating is even lower. Yet, the overwhelming majority of Americans still claim to be patriotic. They obviously do not mean that they love their current government.

Patriotism cannot mean "loving the principals for which our country stands." No country lives by a fixed set of principals, at least not for long. The U.S. Constitution originally upheld slavery. Later, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed citizens of Japanese descent to be placed in concentration camps, without one ounce of evidence that they had done or were planning to do anything wrong. Today, the United States ignores its own constitution by imprisoning people in Guantanamo Bay for years without charging them with a crime. Yes, the United States government has done some wonderful things of the years, but it has also done some horrible things. Do people who claim to be patriotic actually think about all these things, and come to the conclusion that they love some alleged underlying principal behind this country? More to the point, do they think about other countries -- Great Britain, for example -- and decide that the principals behind our country are somehow better? Clearly not.

Patriotism cannot mean loving the people of a country. Again, if that were so, many of us would be equally patriotic to more than one country. Americans think that they are kinder, smarter, better people than the Swedes? Is that why Americans are so patriotic? Again, most Americans -- and especially those who tend to be most patriotic -- do not have the experience to make a judgment about whether Swedes tend to be more or less kind than Americans. When people say they are patriotic, they are not thinking of such things.

In the end, patriotism means loving your country more than other countries, simply because it is your country and for no other reason. Go team! Up us, down you! Patriotism in America is about liking America better than other countries because we are Americans. That is not only immoral, it is extremely dangerous.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Things that tend to survive, tend to survive. That single sentence, a tautology, in fact, sums up the theory of evolution. The rest flows naturally from that simple observation.

If a chimp has two offspring, the one that is better equipped to survive in its environment will probably live longer. As a result of living longer, it will probably have more offspring. Children tend to resemble their parents. Therefore, the next generation of chimps will be more like that chimp than its sibling. Over a long period of time, the population of chimps will become more and more like that first chimp that was better equipped to survive in its environment.

No rational person can argue with the basic theory of evolution, as described above. Of course, there numerous ways in which the picture can be refined. For example, the phrase "better equipped to survive" can be replaced with "better at getting its genes into the next generation." The two are not always the same. If the chimp survives a long time by not expending energy fighting for the ability to mate, the story falls apart. A bee may gets its genes into the next generation by sacrificing itself for its genetically identical siblings. The details of evolution -- what kinds of animals in fact tend to evolve, and under what conditions -- are complex. The basic theory, however, is an obvious truth.

Many Americans refuse to accept that evolution applies to humans. But they have no basis to do so. There is no rational basis to believe that humans are somehow exempt from the laws of logic. Human populations are subject to the same forces of nature as any other population. The humans who tend to survive will tend to survive, and the next generation will be more like them.

That fact alone, however, does not prove that humans and chimps (and indeed all life) share a common ancestor. But a look at the real world makes it abundantly clear that we do. From our obvious physical similarities to other animals, to the distribution of plants and animals that exist, to the common DNA we share, to the fossil record, to the very ways in which are so well and so poorly designed at the same time, the evidence is beyond overwhelming. It would be easier to deny that the heart pumps blood (a fact which, like evolution, was unknown in Shakespeare's time) than it is to deny that we share a common ancestor with other primates.

But what does it matter whether people belief in evolution. I, for one, uses to think that creationist were foolish but harmless, like the Flat Earth Society or the people who think Elvis was abducted by space aliens. Whether we shared a common ancestor with chimps six million years ago makes no difference in our daily lives. Or so I thought. I was wrong. The process of evolution sculpted our bodies and minds of a period of more than a billion years. Evolutionary thinking is critical to understanding who we are, emotionally, intellectually and physically. Understanding evolution is important for medicine, but it is also important for understand ourselves, our loved ones and every other human with whom we share this earth.

I highly recommend the following books:

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, by Richards Dawkins

The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, by Richard Dawkins

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, by Daniel C. Dennett

Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, by David Sloan Wilson

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Real Terrorist

The terrorist who has done the most damage to the United States is George W. Bush. I am well aware that Bush did not plan 9/11, nor do I believe that he had any advance knowledge of the plot. On the other hand, George W. Bush is primarily responsible for the terror that has needlessly gripped this country and changed it so dramatically for the worse since September 11, 2001.

Terrorism is a tactic usually employed by those who, like bin Laden, know that they cannot win a conventional war. Rather than trying to do physical damage, the terrorist tries to inflict emotional or psychological damage on his enemy. The clever terrorist does not attack military installations, but rather seeks to kill civilians while they go about their regular lives, on a bus or plane, or working in an office building. (Bin Laden is not a very effective terrorist. He attacked one spectacular target, feeding his own ego, rather than hitting many smaller, random targets -- the best way to scare the daylights out of a population).

It is all but impossible to physically protect oneself from a terrorist. There are simply too many targets. On the other hand, terrorist do not really do that much damage. Human society suffers from all sorts of risks that are far more lethal, even in the most terror-ridden countries on earth. Cancer and car accidents being two obvious examples.

The best way to address terrorism is to think rationally about it. In an important sense, it is a tragedy when even one person dies, whether of cancer or an accident or an act of terror. But those three deaths are all deaths, one no different from the others. We should pay attention to the lethal risks in proportion to the actual damage they do, not based on how spectacular they are. In societal terms, physical damage from terrorism not very that important, and it does not deserve to take up that much of our attention. In the end, it is somewhere between lightening strikes and shark attacks. Yet, it gets more attention and causes more fear than many far more substantial risks.

Enter George W. Bush. Bush, along with his cronies, used 9/11 to create as much terror as possible in this country, for their own political advantage. They used it to justify their invasion of Iraq, and to get Bush re-elected. They used it to destroy our constitution. Bush claims to be prosecuting a "war on terrorism" and to be a "war president," meaningless phrases used to keep the American people terrified and submissive.

Terror is a psychological tactic, and the man who has terrorized this county is not bin Laden, but rather our own pathetic president.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The End of Faith by Sam Harris

At its heart, The End of Faith is about the difference between faith and reason. Faith is blind. It is not based on evidence or reason, and therefore offering evidence or reasons will not shake the faithful from their beliefs. Harris thinks that is very, very dangerous. It will come as no surprise to anyone that he began writing this book on September 12, 2001.

Harris argues that relying on faith instead of reason is a bad way to lead your life. It leads to all sorts of weird and dangerous beliefs, prevents important scientific discoveries, and stirs hatred between people who hold mutually inconsistent faith-based beliefs. Of course, people make mistakes when they rely on evidence and reason, but at least if we rely on reason and evidence, we are moving in the right direction and we are open to changing our minds when we are wrong. If our beliefs are based on faith, we are stuck forever.

There can be no doubt that faith gets in the way of progress in areas such as medicine. For example, a sizeable and vocal minority of Americans do not believe in evolution because it clashes with their faith-based beliefs. Yes, there is a vital connection between evolution and medicine. Our bodies, and our minds, are the products of evolution. An understand of evolution is crucial to understanding how our bodies are designed, but because of the faith-based, unreasoned beliefs of a minority of people, evolution is not sufficiently taught in schools. As a result, we all suffer in terms of medical care, mental health and many other areas of life.

The End of Faith will make religious people uncomfortable. Harris says exactly what he thinks, without making an attempt to spare the feelings of the religious. He does not, however, call anyone names or say anything in order to be mean or offensive. He simply states that facts as he sees them. Some reviewers claim that Harris is "intolerant" or a "fundamentalist." They are wrong. Harris, unlike many religious leaders, fully supports the right to think, say and believe as you wish. He opposes any form of oppression.

On other hand, Harris also reserves the right to think some beliefs are foolish. You probably do not respect the belief that Elvis is alive. Harris feels the same way about religious beliefs. He certainly would not want to see Elvis believers put in jail or denied rights, but he feels free to say that belief in Elvis is just plain wrong.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Medical Hell, Part I: Sign Your Life Away

I'm planning on posting a short series of comments on the failings of our medical system, based on my experiences. In each case, my point is not to whine that I have been treated poorly. Quite the opposite, I believe that the treatment I received is typical or even "good" by our incredibly low standards. It is the medical system that I wish to criticize, not my particular health care providers. Here's the first installment:

A couple of months ago, I decided to undergo a relatively low risk heart procedure. The first available appointment was about six weeks in the future when I made the decision. During that six week period I visited the doctor once, received various papers in the mail with instructions on where to show up and when, as well as several phone calls asking to confirm the appointment and for information designed to make sure that the hospital can get paid for its services.

It was not until the just before the procedure, however, when the IV was already in my arm, that the hospital gave me detailed legal waivers to sign. Then, the nurse came in and told me she wanted to discuss the various risks of the procedure so that I could give my "informed consent." All this while I am already lying in a hospital gown with a rubber pipe sticking out of my arm. One other minor point: before all this happened, I had already passed out once when the nurse tried to get the IV into the back of my hand and, after several minutes of trying, failed and had to pull it out. My blood pressure dropped to 72/42: the perfect time to sign legal documents and make important decisions about one's health care.

I know I don't really need to say more, but I cannot resist. Just imagine me saying, "wait, nurse, I need to review the fine print in this release before I sign it." Or how about, "nurse, I'd like to negotiate here in paragraph 24.2(a)(2), where the arbitrator is JAMS. How about the AAA instead?" Or how about this one: "What? There is a risk of stroke in this procedure? Well, in that case, I changed my mind. Take this IV out of my arm, I'm going home!" Sadly, I was in no condition to be a smart-ass. What actually happened is that I signed the releases without reading them and told the nurse not to go over the risks with me, lest I pass out a second time. She beat a hasty retreat. (Yes, I knew the risks. I did my own research).

This "sneak attack" is standard operating procedure in our hospitals and doctors' offices. After the patient has bought the health insurance showing the doctor as a preferred provider, and after the patient has arrived for his appointment, the doctor presents forms waiving many important rights. Sign it or you get no treatment. Hospitals routinely wait until the patient is checked in before demanding that the patient sign their forms. Sign it or check back out.

I used to trust doctors and hospitals, but no more. This outrageous conduct is only one of the many reasons.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not My Heroes

Our press and politicians are fond of referring to the men and women of our armed forces as "heroes," and saying that we owe them a great debt. In large part, I disagree. Most of our armed forces are not my heroes. At best, they are victims of their own ignorance who have damaged themselves and others. I might feel sorry for some of them, but they are hardly heroes.

Our armed forces are volunteers. Each and every member of the armed forces chose to join the military. Moreover, anyone who joined the military since approximately January 1, 2003, knew that they would likely serve in the invasion of Iraq: a fiasco of mind-boggling proportions that has cost this country hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of lives and irreparably harmed the reputation of this country, not to mention what it has done to the people of Iraq.

I fail to see how volunteering to participate in the invasion of Iraq qualifies one as a hero. I agree that a person's motivation in agreeing to serve is morally relevant. Some members of the armed services thought the invasion was a good idea. They were wrong, and their mistake damaged both themselves and others: not heroes. They may be good people, but they made a bad mistake and we are all paying the costs.

Some soldiers may have not concerned themselves with the merits of the mission, and simply joined out of a sense of loyalty to the country. Given that the country made a decision to attack, they volunteered to be the ones to put their lives on the line. Those who served Hitler could make the same argument: "It is not my business whether my country should be at war, I should always support my country." Blind allegiance to any one or anything is dangerous, and anyone who is willing to risk their life because George Bush wants to start a war is anything but a hero.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Asset Protection

Many people fear that they will one day lose a lawsuit, and that all their hard earned assets will be taken away. A google search for "Asset Protection" will reveal numerous companies that play to that fear, and offer strategies to prevent creditors from taking your assets. Some of these strategies are legitimate, such placing funds into retirement accounts. Others, such as buying insurance, are actually beneficial to all concerned. For the most part, however, asset protection means committing fraud on your future creditors. It is relatively easy to see why.

Asset protection usually means placing assets into a "trust" which the owner still controls. The owner can do whatever he wants with the trust assets, including spending them or taking them out of the trust. These trusts have provisions that state that, when you are sued, or a judgment is entered against you, you "lose" control over the trust. The trust is then run by some third party in an off shore location, and it is supposedly impossible for creditors to get at the funds. I am not aware of any court in the United States upholding such a provision, nor stating that it is anything other than blatant conspiracy to defraud creditors.

An asset is either yours or it is not. If you really wish to give away your assets, you are free to do so (so long as you still have enough money to pay your debts). If not, then the assets are still yours and your creditors are entitled to get them if you do not pay your debts. One major way asset protection works is by trying to have it both ways -- the assets are yours when you want, but are not yours when creditors come knocking. No court is going to let you get away with that.

The other major way asset protection works is outright fraud. Just hide your assets from the creditor. And lie. Sadly, fraud works, but then again so does robbing a bank. On the other hand, getting caught committing fraud has consequences. The consequences of engaging in asset protection is that you will have a very hard time ever filing bankruptcy if you need to do so. Bankruptcy courts generally make debtors account for their assets before they discharge debts. If you tell the Judge, "I used to have money, but I sent it all to the Cayman Islands so my creditors couldn't get it," you are not likely to get a discharge any time soon.

Some of these "asset protection" companies pretend to legitimate businesses. For example, take a look at the following website: These people operate a scam. My client has a judgment against them for more than $3,000,000 as a result of their attempts to help a rapist avoid paying his victim, but that does not stop them from teaching "continuing education" courses to members of the California State Bar. Or consider this website: It is run by disbarred lawyer Robert Lambert, who says, "All asset protection techniques have one thing in common: they each make it more difficult for a creditor to either find or take assets." Ask him if he can tell you about a single plan he has devised that withstood an attack in court.

Many asset protection companies try to justify their actions by blaming the legal system. "Those evil lawyers are just predators, waiting to take your hard earned money away." I am no fan of our legal system, but asset protection does not offer reform: it offers chaos. A creditor can only take your money if, after a trial, a court determines that you owe the money. If you insulate yourself from that, you place yourself above the law. More importantly, no one can seriously hope to live in a society with things like bank accounts, long term leases, credit or home ownership if anyone can simply stick their assets into a trust and avoid paying their legitimate bills. Would you loan money to anyone, knowing that they could avoid repaying you by placing all their money in a trust?

Incredibly, no one seems to care about the asset protection industry. It would be easy enough to shut down. California has no obligation to honor corporations or trusts from countries such as the Cayman Islands or the Cook Islands, which are essentially safe harbors for white collar criminals. California could shut down most or all of Southpac's business by simply forcing the Cooks Islands to choose -- either enter into reciprocal agreements to enforce each other's judgments, or your corporations and trusts cannot do business in our State. California could shut down Robert Lambert by prosecuting him from practicing law without a license -- a felony, considering that he lost his license.

Asset protection is nothing more than a scam, designed to trap the greedy and the fearful.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Original Intent

Many judges, including perhaps a majority of the US Supreme Court, subscribe to the belief that the US Constitution should be interpreted based the drafters' intent. At first glance, the idea makes perfect sense. After all, the Common Law generally provides that a contract or law should ordinarily be interpreted as the authors' intended. When it comes to the Constitution, however, seeking original intent is completely irrational.

The Constitution is 230 years old. No one alive today voted for it. Even at the time the Constitution was ratified, only small minority of those then alive had anything to do with the decision. Women did not get the vote until over 100 years later and blacks in the U.S. were nearly all held in slavery. Moreover, no matter how good their intentions, the authors of the Constitution had no right to impose their will on their contemporaries, let alone everyone who lives in the United States (as it has now expanded) for all time.

Thankfully, human society has advanced substantially in the past 230 years. Although the authors of the Constitution may have been enlightened for their time, their views on interracial marriage, slavery, crime and punishment and numerous other matters are barbarian by today's standards. The fact that these people thought we have a right to bear arms, for example, should not control our lives. Their judgment about right and wrong is questionable at best, and perhaps more importantly they knew nothing about the weapons or society of today.

Ironically, looking for original intent ignores the true genius of the Constitution. The drafters never intended to legislate 23o years in advance. Rather than defining the rights of the citizens in clear terms, the drafters used phrases like "Due Process of Law" and "Equal Protection." These phrases were intended to be vague, so that each generation could interpret them differently and thus govern themselves. Asking what the drafters meant by "Equal Protection" is not only asking for trouble, it is actually ignoring the drafters' intent.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Corruption at the United States Passport Office

My recent experience with the passport office raises two concerns about our government.

The passport office website informed me that it would take approximately 6 to 8 weeks to renew my passport. The actual work in issuing a new passport is minimal, and probably takes less than an hour. There is no reason why the entire process should ever take more than a couple of days, even at busy times. A typical private company would accomplish a similar administrative task in one day, or else be forced out of business by other companies that did. Denial (or delay) of a passport is a serious matter, preventing one from leaving the country. I am troubled that our government is unable to (or does not care to) perform a simple but important task in a timely fashion. But it gets worse.

I discovered that a "private" agency can get a passport in a day -- for a fee. That is corruption, pure and simple. The private agency does not know the secret way to fill out a form, nor does it have people standing in line holding a place just for its next customer. Quite to the contrary, the private agency has a connection (what kind, it is impossible to tell) which allows it to get a passport as fast as you happen to need it, for a sliding scale of fees. I paid to get my new passport back in a week, and that is when it was returned to me, but I noticed that it was actually issued the day after I left my old passport at the agency. Obviously, those with connections have no trouble getting a passport in the usual time.

Someone inside the government is selling the right to get a passport. It is no wonder that it takes six weeks to get a passport the "usual" way. If it took a day, no one would pay to get their passport faster!

Slowly but surely, the United States is becoming a corrupt third world country.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Free Will

The "problem" of free will escapes me. Some seem to think that free will means that human decisions are not deterministic, i.e., that they are unpredictable. That makes no sense to me. The fact that you can predict, in advance, that I will make a certain choice does not change the fact that the choice is mine to make. I will always choose tuna sushi over natto. I could, if I wanted, chose differently. But it happens that I like tuna, and not natto, so I always choose the former. Still, it is my choice. I could choose otherwise, if I wanted to, but I don't.

Being undeterministic is not the same as having free will. Quantum mechanics tells us that an electron behaves unpredictably, but an electron does not therefore have free will. Or at least there is no reason to believe that it does. Indeed, although the behavior of a particular electron is not strictly predictable, the behavior of a large group of electrons is. That is because quantum mechanics tells us the odds that an electron will take a certain path. The choice of each electron is not really "unpredictable" at all. If being undeterministic is "free will," then there really is not such thing.

The false "problem" of free will seems to be a function of a misunderstanding of the term "I." The fact that you can, theoretically at least, always predict in advance what I am going to chose does not change the fact that I made the choice. Now, if I am served natto, no matter what I request, then of course I did not have a choice in the matter.

This brings me to the issue of accountability and blame. Perhaps I am destinted to commit a terrible crime. It is a certainty that I will chose to kill a man. Can I be blamed? After all, I am exactly what my genetic background and my upbringing, and given those facts about my existence, it is certain what I will do. Circumstances may have conspired to make me a bad person, someone who chooses to do evil things. Still, that does not chance the fact that I can still be blamed for what I do, so long as I have a choice.

By "choice" I mean that circumstances are such that, if another person were in the same circumstances as I, the result might be different. For example, if I am driving and decide to run a red light, you (and many other people) would have been able to act differently. You would have stepped on the brake. Assuming that the brakes work, my running the red light was a choice.

Of course, there are all sorts of problematic cases, such as where my leg spasms, and I am not able to step on the brake. Most people would not blame me under those circumstances, yet you would have done better had you been in my place. It seems that, in this example, my body and not my brain made the "choice." Without getting into a mind-body argument, this seems like a clear example of a decision made by my body, for which I am not morally responsible. Strictly speaking, however, perhaps I did have a "choice," as I have defined it. Of course, change the example to add the fact that I was taking medication that I knew gave me leg spasms, and perhaps I am to blame again.

And what about people who do things under the influence of drugs or mental illness? At least by my definition, they have still chosen to do whatever it is that they do. Perhaps the moral implications are different, depending on the complete circumstances, but the drunk person still chooses to punch someone in the nose.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Is JAMS Fair?

January 11, 2008

More and more disputes are being resolved through private arbitration rather than litigation in a court. Courts are run by the government. The judges are public employees. They draw a fixed salary, and they take whatever cases are filed. The filing fees in court are minimal. On the other hand, the courts can be overcrowded, overworked and slow, although that is not true of the Los Angeles County Superior Court where I practice law. I do not mean to imply that the LASC is short of cases. In fact, it is busy, but, on the whole, cases get resolved promptly.

If the parties to a dispute agree, their dispute can be resolved by a private arbitrator, who is selected and paid by the parties, rather than by a court operated by the State. This agreement to arbitrate a dispute can be made in advance, for example in an agreement between a patient and a doctor to arbitrate any malpractice claim, should one arise in the future. Alternatively, the agreement to arbitrate can be made after the dispute has already arisen.

Courts favor arbitration for one obvious reason: it lightens the courts' burden. If a private arbitrator resolves a case, the court does not have to. The State saves money, and the individual judges have less work to do. The State Legislature loves arbitration, for the same reason. Therefore, courts send cases to arbitration whenever there is a basis to do so. Moreover, once an arbitrator had made a decision, the courts almost never set those awards aside. The fact that the arbitrator made an obvious mistake of fact or law is not a basis for a court to vacate an arbitrator's award. There is no "appeal," as there is from a judgment entered by a judge.

The increase in the number of arbitrations has resulted in an increase in the number of arbitrators. Many, although by no means all, of the arbitrators are retired judges. (In fact, some arbitrators are not even lawyers).

I have come to oppose the growth of arbitration, for two main reasons. First, some arbitrators take advantage of the fact that there is no appeal from an arbitration award. They do what they please, without regard to the facts or the law, knowing that the courts will almost certainly overlook their "errors" and affirm their awards as judgments.

Perhaps more importantly, many arbitrators are biased. For example, some health care providers, such as Kaiser, force their patients to sign arbitration agreements in advance as a condition of providing care. Imagine that you are an arbitrator who handles the resulting medical malpractice arbitrations between Kaiser and patients. If you rule against Kaiser, you run the risk of never being selected again by Kaiser to arbitrate another case. If you rule against the patient, that patient might never agree to use you again, but that hardly matters. The bottom line is that arbitration can favor the repeat customer -- the big company vs. the consumer.

Of course, that is not true of all, or even most, arbitrators. Take, for example, ADR Services. ADR provides the services of retired Judges, both as mediators and as arbitrators. I have never found any of the professionals from ADR to be biased, although admittedly I have used them more as mediators than as arbitrators.

I am deeply concerned, however, about JAMS, another company that provides the services of retired judges, who act as mediators and arbitrators. I recently had a terrible experience with JAMS, and specifically with retired judge G. Keith Wisot. I practice in a small firm, one that cannot provide any meaningful amount of business to JAMS. On the other side of the case is a large firm, which can. Judge Wisot made rulings that can only be described as bizarre. Well, that is not quite true. They can also be described as acts outside his jurisdiction and most likely a violation of my clients' Procedural Due Process Rights. In fact, that is how the Los Angeles County Superior Court described Judge Wisot's actions in finding that his award is defective and must, at a minimum, be corrected. As mentioned above, it takes quite a bit to get a court to take a second look at an arbitrator's award.

I cannot explain Judge Wisot's behavior in a satisfactory way. He is not a stupid man, and he did not simply make an honest mistake. He has no past history with me, nor with my clients. I doubt that he is taking bribes, at least not as that word is normally used. What I believe is that he ruled in favor of the big firm, knowing that, if he continues to do so, he will continue to get business from them. That is the only explanation I can come up with, although I admit it is just conjecture on my part, and I cannot prove it.

I do have one other piece of evidence: Judge Wisot's outrageous billing rate. JAMS bills his time at between $600 and $1,000 per hour, and sometimes at even higher rates. By way of comparison, there are 42 retired Judges and Justices (a higher position than a Judge in our system) on the ADR Southern California Panel. That panel includes several highly sought after individuals, such as Judge Alan Haber, Judge Enrique Romero and Justice John Zebrowski. Yet, not one of those jurists charges even $600 per hour. Judge Wisot's lowest rate -- as charged by JAMS -- is higher than every one of ADR's 42 jurists.

Moreover, Judge Wisot has no meaningful reputation. I can safely say that because, in my 18 years as litigator in Los Angeles, I cannot remember a single time when any attorney suggested Judge Wisot for anything, nor have I heard anyone curse him. By way of contrast, I have repeatedly had other attorneys suggest Judge Romero, especially for settlement purposes. I only vaguely remember Judge Wisot when he was on the bench, many years ago. Since becoming involved in the cases before him, I have asked several other attorneys for their opinions. If they remember him at all, their opinions are uniformly neutral: no one particularly likes or dislikes him.

I believe that JAMS and its overpaid mediocre group of retired judges has a cozy relationship with big law firms. The big firms agree to over pay for the services, and in return JAMS rules in their favor. I doubt very much that there is an express agreement along those lines, but my limited experience seems to suggest that is the case. I would welcome a detailed survey of the success rate of big firms in cases tried by JAMS versus cases tried in open court, and subject to review. In the meantime, I will continue to use ADR Services, and avoid JAMS.