The message descended from San Francisco, but it resonated in the Golden Triangle.

Trial lawyers are more important than doctors.

That's what famed plaintiff's attorney Gerry Spence told a crowd of 500 at last week's Consumer Attorneys of California convention.

The Wyoming lawyer, famous for representing labor union activist Karen Silkwood as well as his cameos on behalf of O.J. Simpson, laid it on thick for a panting crowd. Damn the critics, said Spence, it's time America's trial bar was proud once more.

"I want to ask you which would be more important: If all of the doctors in the country somehow disappeared or all the trial lawyers in America somehow disappeared?" he asked. "We can live without medical care, but we cannot live without justice."

"We are the most important people in America."

Let that settle in for a moment and reflect.

Lawyers are the most important people in America? Is that more important than the doctors who save lives and heal pain?

We can live without medical care, but not without men like Gerry Spence, apparently?

This rare glance into the egocentric mind of the self-described "consumer lawyer" should prove instructive to those of us who seek to produce things, create jobs and think doctors help us stay alive.

For Spence and his brethren there is nothing more important than their work. They don't factor the broader costs to society of questionable lawsuits against drug companies, or ponder the human cost of trying to put one of your community's largest employers out of business over its tangential use of a product like asbestos.

The unemployed don't matter. Neither does the money spent on lawyers that could be spent on something productive--like curing a disease such as cancer. But then, as Spence noted, doctors are less important than lawyers.

Now we know. It isn't greed, just a reigning God complex that drives such immodest behavior. And the richer some get, as we've seen here in Beaumont, the more Godly--and maybe greedy--they tend to become.

If you ever wondered what kind of delusion drives the men and women who file those frivolous cases you read about on these pages, now you know. Thanks, Spence, for the insight.

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