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Congress will debate proposed legal-system reforms requiring the losers of lawsuits to pay all legal fees.

Reducing "frivolous lawsuits" would be good, but is this proposal a good idea? Should a fair chance at equality under law depend on one's ability to pay large legal fees?The assumptions underpinning proposed legal reform seem to be these:

1. Lawyers' fees are equitable; attorneys have the right to charge with impunity any size fee for their services; we are under a moral obligation to pay those fees no matter how outrageous.

2. The purpose of practicing law is providing attorneys a plush living - not helping people individually or society as a whole.

3. All judges are wise and honest enough to differentiate clearly between frivolous lawsuits and legitimate ones.

4. If corporations harm us, corporate security and profits are more important than individual rights to a fair settlement.

These underlying assumptions are not sound. Just because some lawyers want large fees does not mean they have the inalienable right to charge them. Serving people, not profit, should always be most important in the professions. We have no guarantee that all our judges are honest and wise.

Justice for individuals, not institutional needs, should be paramount in the courts. Real legal reform would stipulate that only attorneys who win their cases can require their clients to pay them.

Most professionals do not demand payment if they have not successfully completed their jobs or not done their job correctly or adequately. Attorneys should not take frivolous, unwinnable cases nor expect payment after losing those frivolous cases. Ultimately, legal reform will not come from Congress.

Children should be taught legal philosophy and law throughout their formative years. Children should be taught morality and right from wrong by their parents. If we do this, we will all have less need for both professional attorneys and the courts. We need to take the law into our own hands and become literate in what (unfortunately) has become an elitist branch of learning.

Rick Soulier