The potential violators fear less (in damages, that is); the victims can get significantly less (in damages, that is); the lawyers can expect less (fewer potential clients, that is; even winning victims can end up losing lots of money in taxes—more than they would be awarded!).
My complaint looks strange to many. Not that anybody expressed it directly—but how can it be true? Numerous casino players write down in casinos every day, as we speak. Why do the casinos ban me?
Players keep records at the roulette table. The game of baccarat cannot be played without record keeping. The game of keno cannot be played without writing! At the time the events that led to my complaint, I did see two roulette players with paper notebooks. The paper notebooks were smaller in size than my notebook, but I could see numbers on the pages of the other players. I did see also one player at a blackjack table with paper and pencil.
People can read here, at my web site, about related events. In 1999 and 2000 I played and researched casino games. In the year 2000, I was accompanied by a potential playing partner (he could become a witness now). We wrote down roulette spins at the very Taj Mahal casino I filed a complaint against. Nobody asked us to stop writing down, or taking notes, or keeping records. We agreed, however, that some casino employees did not appreciate our activity. But they only showed displeasure; they did not act with hostility.
I also used paper and pencil at blackjack tables. Moreover, I showed other players a small color-coded blackjack basic strategy chart. I even told other players what the best decisions were. Nobody stopped me from such activities. Nobody asked me, in a threatening manner or an aggressive manner, to leave the casino. I realized some casino employees were not pleased with my activities. The only negative reaction I noticed was changing the dealer. I was expected to leave. The dealer and the pit boss started a very long chat. I was unable to catch its conclusion, since I had a bus to catch. In 2003, however, the dealer at Taj Mahal had a negative reaction when I told a player from Korea what the best move was when he had 14 and the dealer had a face card of 6 (the player wanted to draw!). The dealer said something to the extent “I hate when he does that! He teaches everybody how to play!” He was referring to me.
I was surprised how aggressive the casino supervisor was when he asked me to stop playing and leave the casino. I couldn't believe they had forgotten those cases: Ken Uston and Anthony Campione. I was also surprised how superficially the Casino Control Commission treated my complaint. They simply threw it to the wastebasket. They only showed some action after I emailed them and asked for a response. I had informed them that I had informed the federal authorities about what had happened to me. Sounded like the commission believed that “It's too hard for you and us, pal, to do anything under the new law!”
The new legislation responds to almost mythical reaction to trial lawyers. Every presidential election in the U.S. has something to do with trial lawyers. One can hear a lunatic increase in the jokes about trial lawyer during presidential campaigns. Never mind that this great judicial system would have not survived without trial lawyers. That is, hard-nosed trial lawyers, who are as important as the hard-nosed politicians. No democracy could survive without hard-nosed players. The hard-nosed players create a fair playing environment, more so than referees would create.
I only witnessed one trial in a former communist country. The trial lawyer was the most humiliated person in that ad-hoc courtroom. The defense lawyer was more humiliated than the defendants he was “defending”. The presiding judge was like a neurotic tyrant. The judge could cool his anger only by getting mad at the lawyer. After the trial, we, the forced-to-attend participants were talking mostly about the lawyer. How could that guy sleep at night? What kind of persons were our lawyers? How could they take the pain of going through the university of legal studies, only to get the chance to be humiliated by judges and prosecutors? As of that trial, the judge ruled a quick verdict and sentence: guilty, 10 years forced labor, no parole.
I understand the new legislation tries to cut off the excesses in damages asked-for and damages awarded. A car accident and 100 million dollars in awards—I remember such a case. Also, the governments against the tobacco industry—billions and billions in settlements. The limits should be calculated more decently. But the damage caps should also consider how big the violator is, financially. A multi-billion dollar company would laugh at damages capped by $300,000. It's peanuts! Who cares? There would be no fear-factor in violating the law.
Then there is this discouraging factor for the victim. “You can win the trial, but you could lose an arm and a leg!” It is known that current legislation is hostile to large punitive awards. The courts severely limit the amounts. I was directed to an article in
"Star-Telegram”, August 14, 2002.
“A police officer in Chicago who won a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit against her employer could face a tax bill larger than her award, The New York Times recently reported.”
The police officer was awarded $3 million by a federal jury in her suit against the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, her employer. Then, a judge ruled the award excessive and gave the plaintiff a choice between a new trial and a reduced amount of $300,000. In late July, the officer also was awarded lawyers' fees and costs totaling nearly $950,000.
Under the federal tax law, the victim is responsible for paying taxes not only on the $300,000 award but also on the lawyer's fees and costs. She not only would lose every penny of the award but also would owe the Internal Revenue Service $99,000!
The lawyers must inform potential clients on the award caps and also possibilities that they can end up being in debt, even if winning their cases! The environment discourages complaints from victims, discourages lawyers from taking on important matters. Meanwhile, big corporations are encouraged to care less about the law; if the consequences are just a slap on the wrist, why worry? I think, for example, of whistle blowers, as in recent scandals on Wall Street. Who would dare to come forward with the truth in a new Enron? It would be so easy for an Enron to fire a whistle blower. The consequences would be non-existent. What's $300,000 for huge billion-dollar revenue? Of course, the truth would surface, if the violation has audaciously gigantic consequences. But why lose more as the result of delays? Or, what about the smaller scale case?
You can address your representatives in the Congress. Urge them to reconsider the law.
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