A More Pleasant World
by Ron Sandgrund
Someone said, "The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers," so we did. Since the judges were lawyers too, we killed them as well. And the world was a much nicer place. For a while. However, after a few months, a few cracks appeared in the veneer.
First, no one arrested was getting tried. Jails started to overflow. Eventually, "lay" prosecutors were appointed, but they refused to plea bargain any cases with the evildoers, and our courts — now staffed by "lay" judges — became so backlogged that, even when the "speedy trial" requirement was expanded to five years by our "lay" Supreme Court, 99 percent of all arrestees had to be released. Eventually, a "presumption" of guilt was adopted, which greatly speeded-up trials, but which resulted in the closure of all sports stadiums and universities to house the wicked. Being appointed a "lay" prosecutor guaranteed a most comfortable life — for a while — until we killed all the "lay" prosecutors because they started to look and sound like lawyers.
Unfortunately, commerce ground to a standstill. For a while, businesses simply re-used old and yellowed "standard-form" contracts but, over time, the boilerplate words no longer resembled the bargain that actually was reached. When people tried to write their own contracts, it turned out that some were very good with the English language; others not-so-good. Those who could not read or write English well fared quite badly. Because no two contracts looked alike, it always was a bit of a gamble as to how any contract might be interpreted if a dispute arose. A lot of people started doing deals on a "hand shake," but these oral contracts turned out not to be worth the paper they were written on, even between honest folk.
It was hard to believe, but politics got uglier. Elections were frequently and vigorously contested. In the last recorded U.S. election, the master Zip disk recording everyone’s votes accidentally was erased, and the back-up disk was not found for several months. Parts of the second disk were corrupted, but enough was "reconstituted" by a consortium of experts loaned out by corporate America to give the ruling party a seven-vote victory out of more than 200 million ballots cast, the second smallest margin of victory ever.
No new government regulations were written and no old regulations were enforced, which was just fine with everyone, particularly the country’s largest and most ruthless landowner, the Wilderness Conservancy Trust. A strip mine began operating on the Grand Canyon’s north rim based on a 400-year-old "lease" from the King of Spain. The validity of the lease was challenged by the nonprofit Eco-Nuts Association. The history books say the case was litigated for
at least 17 years, but no one knows what happened after that because people stopped writing history.
Frivolous lawsuits, not-so-frivolous lawsuits and well-founded lawsuits became a thing of the past. As anarchy spread and fires burned, insurance companies blamed higher premiums and shrinking markets on greedy trial lawyers. When the talking heads pointed out that the lawyers were all dead, a rare silence gripped the insurance industry. Product safety slipped a bit. People drove less carefully. McDonald’s went back to serving scalding hot coffee. The Senate Committee on the Multi-District Consolidation of State and Federal Asbestos Litigation issued its draft findings and recommendations for speeding the asbestos claims resolution process — one year after the last asbestos claimant passed away at age 113.
Inconceivably, divorces devolved into even more brutal affairs.
International peace, such as it was before all the lawyers and judges were killed, disappeared altogether, as nations sat down and "revisited" their treaty obligations. In the European Union, efforts to write and ratify an EU Constitution finally came to an end in their 63rd year. International borders were unilaterally redrawn so often that, like snowflakes, no two country’s maps were alike.
While many regions reverted to local custom to resolve disputes, like China’s neighborhood assemblies, the Inuit’s tribal councils and Major League Baseball’s ad hoc drug policy committee, people realized that those who spoke for others and those who decided the issues at these gatherings were the "functional equivalent" of lawyers and judges. They were, of course, delivered to the "functional equivalent" of death.
A best-seller called the Cardozo Code explained that not all the lawyers and judges had been killed. Instead, it suggested that the survivors had formed a secret society devoted to perpetuating the BIG LIE that the world actually was a "better" place with lawyers and judges despite their obvious failings and their system’s manifest flaws.
Someone said, "The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers," so we did. But the world went mad. It took a little longer for some places to get there. North Korea was the last member of the great "original" community of nations to fall. In industrialized, democratic countries, the breakdown came much more swiftly.
Fewer lawyer jokes were made. The ones that persisted did not seem as funny.
I have to go now. Time to forage.