There ought to be a law!

How many times have you heard that one?

The funny thing is, when people say it, there often is a law: a law already in existence that prohibits, restricts, regulates, taxes, or otherwise penalizes the very action or practice they think there ought to be a law for.

The problem, in many cases, is twofold: most people don't know about the law and nobody's enforcing it.

Ask around and you'll find that most people think there ought to be a law against ambulance-chasing. You can then enjoy the look of surprise on their faces when you tell them that there already is one.

When you explain that attempting to instigate or encourage litigation for profit or harassment is called barratry, it is a crime, and there is a law against it, you're sure to be asked two questions: “How come I've never heard of this?” And: “Why is no one enforcing it?”

Those are good questions.

It's safe to assume that there'd be fewer instances of barratry if the law against it was enforced more frequently. It's also likely that there'd be more enforcement if the general public knew the law existed and demanded its application when appropriate.

As it happens, here in Texas, awareness and enforcement of our anti-barratry law are growing. Right now, a class action suit involving claims of barratry and fraud is proceeding against Texas attorneys specializing in hailstorm damage claims (spec., the law firm of Speights & Worrich) and associated public adjusters and roofers.

“This lawsuit involves an elaborate web of fraud, barratry, breaches of fiduciary duty, conversion, systemic dishonesty, and conspiracy perpetrated by the Defendants,” plaintiffs assert. To their credit, they decided to do something about it.

Maybe if we spread the word and let people know there is a law, we'll see more enforcement of it – in civil suits against, and criminal prosecutions of, attorneys engaging in barratry.

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