The item in the Republican "Contract with America" that addresses "legal reforms" is on the wrong track. It states that judges should be allowed to require someone who brings a lawsuit and loses to pay the lawyers' fees of both sides.
Should this be allowed, it would no longer be prudent for an ordinary individual to bring suit against a large business establishment, regardless of the blatancy of an offense.
In general, an individual is hard-pressed to cover the cost of a single lawyer, whereas large business establishments bring on sometimes three, five or even 10 lawyers.
With our less-than-perfect justice system, an individual cannot afford to risk having to pay such costs. Therefore, it is suggested that such an allowance not be enacted.
The Contract also proposes limiting punitive damages. This, too, is a bad idea.
Plaintiffs should be adequately compensated for damages, but they have no rightful claim to punitive damages.
The change needed is one whereby punitive damages are awarded to society (e.g., state or federal government), with legal fees for such awards being disallowed.
Havre de Grace
I went to a Post Office to get some three-cent stamps to cover my remaining 29-cent stamps. It was sold out of three-cent stamps.
This bureaucracy had been talking about this rate increase for at least four months, and they can't even be ready for a known situation as their own prices changes.
I can't wait for the day to come when the U.S. Postal Service is either privatized, or e-mail gets so advanced the U.S. Postal Service will become obsolete.
Joe B. McCall
Commendations to C. Fraser Smith for the Jan. 1 article in Perspective.
The effect of the children's testimonies before the 1994 General Assembly was praiseworthy considering the legislature's previous slow response to the need for stiffer laws covering drunk driving.
The bereaved family and friends of Annie Davis were successful (with the help of Mothers Against Drunk Driving) where MADD had formerly labored long to to gain slow changes.
The new law requires "drug and alcohol testing at the scene of serious accidents." My question -- what constitutes a "serious" accident? Is it the presence of an ambulance at the scene, any injury verified by police, and/or other factors?
The "illegal per se" law already passed by 46 states appears to be the tough measure needed by Maryland. But let us not pass it merely for the federal aid which will result.
Could this law be unfair and/or unconstitutional? Consider a case in which a drug or alcohol impaired driver may be stopped and then hit by another vehicle whose driver used bad judgment unrelated to drug or alcohol abuse.
The first driver could still be charged with driving under the influence but would the "illegal per se" law then absolve the person responsible for the accident from deserved charges?
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Annie Davis. May memories of Annie continue to spur them to worthy causes and may their faith in the democratic system continue to grow.
Margery C. Craven
Connie Chung did nothing wrong in her interview with Newt Gingrich's parents.
She did not ask Kathleen Gingrich about Hillary Clinton. But Mrs. Gingrich brought up the subject of Mrs. Clinton and seemed as if she couldn't wait to make the "B" remark.
When Connie Chung said, "Whisper it to me," surely everyone involved knew the microphone was on. Mrs. Gingrich's bad judgment, not Ms. Chung's.
I read with curiosity the article in the Maryland section of The Sun Jan. 5 about the married couple who have had 22 visits by the police because of their domestic violence.
The article reported that a judge warned them that one more 911 call -- regardless of who makes the call -- will land the husband in jail.
I find it curious that the judge, who happens to be a woman, will automatically jail the man the next time this couple fights.
Her attitude that he is automatically the one to be punished (even though, as the article stated, they have both been arrested in the past for battering each other) reveals her stereotypical attitude toward domestic violence -- that men are always its perpetrators, and never its victims.
With the judge's biased, anti-male ruling, what's to stop the wife from calling the police on her husband when he hasn't done anything wrong, just to get him out of her hair and into a jail cell?
This seems like a clear-cut case of anti-male discrimination to me.
Jews in Iran
Rafael Alvarez's report on new Jewish immigrants (Dec. 17) quoted from an Iranian Jewish couple (Sion and Mahvaash Delshad): It was "too dangerous" to name their son a Jewish name while they were in Iran; also that the culture has no love for Jews.
Mr. and Mrs. Delshad, and other Jews, may not remember (or may not want to remember) that it was Cyrus the Great, founder of the first Persian Empire, who freed Jews from Babylon captivity.
He let the Jews go wherever they wanted and helped them to build their temples wherever they liked. This happened more than 2,500 years ago. . . .
The history of every nation has ups and downs, and in every nation a group of people, for one reason or another, may show fanatic reactions to one or another group.
This does not justify condemning that nation, or denouncing the culture of that nation. Fanaticism, in whatever format, ultimately hurts everyone, including those who may benefit from it at the beginning.
Peter Jay's column (Jan. 8) has all the markings of a satirical essay. Given his position, he obviously knows that legal cases are tried in court and not in the press.
And surely a writer who describes himself as a farmer would not summon up such phrases as "back country" and "bush league" to indicate a presumed lack of sophistication and expertise.
And by all means, Mr. Jay, who has written so eloquently on behalf of Havre de Grace, would ordinarily extend the same consideration to the grand old community of Catonsville, which is not on any isolated frontier, as the term "back country" suggests.
Indeed, Catonsville is the proud home of a first-rate university and not unlike many other small towns with even larger research universities -- from Ithaca, N.Y., to Chapel Hill, N. C.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County is a distinguished university with superb students and an exceptional faculty of national and international reputation.
Its achievements, since its founding in 1966, are nothing short of remarkable.
The average SAT score for this year's freshman class stands at precisely the level of its sister institution in College Park.
Money magazine classified UMBC as a "very selective" institution -- the only campus in the University of Maryland System to earn such recognition. In average SAT scores UMBC ranks 58 points above the well-endowed University of Delaware, which has selected UMBC as one of its peer institutions.
With fewer than 400 faculty members, UMBC will record an extraordinary $30 million in sponsored research this year.
Faculty members regularly deliver theatrical performances that win honors at the Kennedy Center, publish books with the leading university presses in the world and receive prestigious awards from leading foundations.
Given Mr. Jay's concern with the Cold War, it is ironic that it is a distinguished historian at UMBC who has been selected by the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars to oversee an international team of scholars to document and analyze the end of the Cold War.
We do, however, have a sense of humor in Catonsville, and we relied on it extensively in reading Mr. Jay's column. Groucho would have been proud.
Jo Ann E. Argersinger
The writer is provost and professor of history at UMBC.