Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit
Unless you are a lawyer -- or the windiest of all Shakespeare characters who delivered this bit of wisdom. Lawyers file what they call “briefs,” supposedly concise statements of the issues, facts, laws and arguments as they would have a judge see them, avoiding what Lord Polonius did not, “tediousness” and “flourishes.” Judges have had enough of the unbriefs put before them and want the word-count limit on briefs changed from 14,000 to what The Wall Street Journal calls “a svelte 12,500.” Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals says he gets “numb” reading the tomes set before him. I once watched a lawyer argue before that distinguished jurist, opening with “I have seven points.” Asked which would be the most important, he replied “All,” and held to that position despite repeated requests from Judge Silberman to select one or two that were most central to his argument. He lost.
Lawyers are having none of this drive for concision, which they say will come at the expense of their clients, reflecting a surprising concern for their clients’ expense, if I may be permitted a pun. Or of any drive to shorten proceedings. In New York, a state that requires judges to approve mortgage foreclosures, some cases have dragged on for so long that the borrower remains in the house despite missing five years of payments. That, some lawyers are arguing, means that the statute of limitations has been exceeded, meaning payments are no longer due and foreclosure is impossible. Justice delayed is justice achieved, say lawyers for strapped homeowners.
qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent
So Seneca is thought to have advised, picked up by Ben Franklin as “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” Neither the Roman stoic nor the Founding Father were addressing their warnings to businessmen who seek shelter under the wings of a friendly regulator, but it might be a good idea for businessmen lying down with their regulators to keep that warning in mind. Beset by competition with Vietnamese and Chinese catfish producers, American producers persuaded Congress to move regulation of those foreigners from a rather relaxed Food and Drug Administration to what The New York Times calls “a more rigorous program at the Department of Agriculture.” Which obliged, but with a set of regulations that apply to domestic as well as foreign producers, and are so detailed and onerous that the cost of compliance seems likely to drive many American firms out of business. Not to mention costly for taxpayers: the FDA inspection regime cost $700,000 per year, the new -- get this -- Office of Catfish Inspection at the Department of Agriculture has already spent $2 million and is barely up and running. “I don’t think they had a clue,”a former FDA administrator told the NYT; “This is the quintessential example of be careful what you ask for,” added a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute.
Or just with which sorts of folks you choose to lie down. As Netflix discovered to its pain. That bane of the cable industry and dearly beloved of the “cord cutters” who want to see cable companies and their bundles of unwanted but expensive offerings consigned to the dustbin of history thought it would be a good idea to have the Federal Communications Commission regulate the cable industry as if it were an old-time telephone company. So it supported what has come to be called Obamanet, the rules issued by the supposedly independent FCC at the behest of the President. To the applause, says National Journal, of “web activists and liberals.” According to Gordon Crovitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Netflix now has “lobbyist’s remorse” as it finds itself ensnared in detailed regulations that are not those it envisioned, and run contrary to important parts of its business model. Perhaps the brass at Netflix forgot that the company’s VP for corporate communications once said in a different context, “Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers.” Ah well, qui cum canibus ….
Diet, Exercise, The Body Beautiful And Eternal Life