(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

race discrimination in public accomodations Because Google told me that it was similar to my site, I looked at The Sound and the Fury. Through that site I find that somebody called "Overlawyered," which purports to "explore[ ] an American legal system that too often turns litigation into a weapon against guilty and innocent alike, erodes individual responsibility, rewards sharp practice, enriches its participants at the public's expense, and resists even modest efforts at reform and accountability," has linked -- with implied disapproval of the plaintiffs and their lawyers, to judge by the mission-statement quoted above -- to this article. The article is about a settlement of a suit alleging race discrimination against customers by a Wendy's in Cullman, Alabama.

So, what are we to make of the implicit claim that this settlement is part of what is wrong with our legal system? Is it that the author of overlawyered believes that we should repeal the decades-old federal statute prohibiting race discrimination in public accomodations, so that restaurants in Cullman will be able to refuse to seat Black people if they want? I know that some law-and-economics types, and some racists, believe this (note that I am not saying that those groups are the same); but they're wrong. Is the author saying that the allegation of racially discriminatory motive was implausible and that this was just a shakedown settlement? If so, the author should spend more time in Cullman, Alabama; there are plenty of white people who aren't racists there, but there are way too many who are, and it's entirely plausible that this was race discrimination. (It wasn't too long ago that Cullman had a sign at the city limits telling Black people to get out of town before sundown, referred to (e.g.) here). That's quite obviously why Wendy's settled the case: because there was a risk that they would lose. How the enforcement of civil rights laws through good-faith lawsuits, and the settlement of those lawsuits, constitutes "overlawyering" or something wrong with our society is frankly beyond me.

UPDATE: Oops, I meant "Taco Bell," not "Wendy's". I got confused. The point remains the same.

posted by sam 10:00 AM 0 comments


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