Open Letter to Rachel Maddow
Many times over the years I have imagined myself writing to you, but never quite gotten around to it. I knew what I would say though. . .I would congratulate you on your bravery, your dedication, and your positive influence on the discourse in our society. I would thank you for all you’ve done. I would express my admiration for you, and call you “my generation’s Walter Cronkite.” I would tell you I have been your fan for many years.
Now I find myself writing to you with a heavy heart, after last night’s episode in which you mocked “injury lawyers.” You referred derisively to “fender benders” and “slip and falls,” when discussing T****’s legal team as we head into the impeachment trial. Across the country, insurance executives toasted each other with glee, as one of our society’s most celebrated and well known progressive voices ridiculed civil justice to millions of Americans. Millions of jurors.
They must have been proud, indeed, that their decades-long effort to smear “trail lawyers” and “ambulance chasers” paid unimaginable dividends. Their toxic and unjust talking points had crossed the lips of The Great Rachel Maddow.
Please understand that our civil justice system exists to protect the powerless against the powerful. Injured people have to fight tooth and nail for justice against one of the most powerful institutions in our society. . .the insurance industry. Those people rely on juries of their peers. . .their neighbors, members of their own communities. When those injured people get their day in court, those juries have the final say. There are no appeals, and our local community verdicts are final. Our juries protect the powerless against moneyed interests in ways every bit as significant as labor unions, advocacy groups, and other barriers against unchecked greed.
Why does everyone know about the “McDonald’s coffee case?” Because the powers that be want everyone to know about it. They want jurors to be suspicious of plaintiffs, lawyers, and the very system that provides access to justice for our most vulnerable, injured by careless, reckless and sometimes intentional acts. They have largely succeeded, and you have now helped them.
I am not asking for an apology, because that is not what you owe. You owe repair. I am asking that you repair the damage you have done and the influence you have exercised over millions of jurors.
I know you will do the right thing, and look forward to hearing from you.
James R. Gregory, Member, Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, Guardians of Civil Justice