I Didn’t Read the Documents, But That’s OK, File the Lawsuit Anyway

As I’ve been following the semi-furor over Eric Holder’s revelation before a Congressional committee that he hasn’t read the Arizona immigration statute – a law that he’d earlier suggested he’d have the government sue to invalidate – I’ve been wondering how such an approach would work in private practice. In that context, not having read the staute is beyond inexcusable. It is incompetent, a firing offense, and borderline malpractice.I can picture the scenario. New client comes to the office, upset about a dispute over a contract or some such, and wondering what his recourse is. I tell him to leave the documents, that I’ll look them over and we’ll talk in a couple of days. Three or four days later the client calls and asks what I think. “Oh, this is outrageous. You’ve got a slam dunk case. We need to file a lawsuit,” I tell him. “Really?” he asks. “You read the contract and think I have a case?” “I didn’t read it,” I tell him “but I am aware of it. I’ve skimmed it. And you have a dead solid case.”

In the real world, the client would probably fire me. If I went ahead and filed the case, I might be subject to sanctions. If I screwed it up because I’d not done the due diligence, I might be liable for malpractice. As a lawyer, making judgments about a matter without reading the relevant documents and gathering the appropriate information is siimply not acceptable. But in the Obama White House, it seems to be the norm.

I understand that the Attorney General is busy. He can’t read everything. But for him to appear on national television and threaten legal action to invalidate a properly enacted piece of state legislation without more than a passing familiarity with the statute s no more acceptable than what I proposed in my hypothetical. Let’s be honest, making a judgment without having read the document, as the Attorney General did, is not legal analysis. It is the expression of a political opinion. An opinion based upon a personal distaste for the content of the statute. We deserve more – and better – from our nation’s chief legal officer. Eric Holder is either incompetent or dishonest, and he should resign now.

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