A Litigation Society?
"Doomsday Drawing Near with Thunder and Lightning for Lawyers/' warned a 17th-century London pamphleteer. Today's Americans may still distrust lawyers, but they nevertheless have come to rely more and more upon courts and the law. Everything from disputes between parents and children to the future of nuclear power seems eventually to come before a judge. As A. E. Dick Howard, a specialist on constitutional law, suggests, we may be well on our way to becoming a "litigation society." The courts have often served as a useful "safety valve" - they led the way in ending de jure racial segregation. But, of late, they have tried to resolve an increasing number of social questions that are less susceptible to judicial remedy. The real difficulty, Howard says, maybe the breakdown of the old sense of community and compromise that led Americans to settle political disputes out of court - in legislatures and party conventions.