Pervasive secrecy corrupts the societal purposes of our civil justice system. Today in the San Francisco Chronicle, bouncing off the Herman Cain brouhaha, I criticize the ubiquitous practice of confidential settlements to resolve civil disputes. From my conclusion:
The time has come to draw open the curtains. Confidentiality:
– Allows dangerous products to remain on the market.
– Protects the reputations of those who engage in systemic wrongdoing.
– Makes it easier for the unscrupulous to profit from bogus claims and defenses.
– Inreases the cost of insurance.
– Adds to congestion in the courts.
– Most ironically, secret settlements push the plaintiff and the defense, who should be legal adversaries, into a form of private collusion for which the rest of society pays.
Civil justice secrecy is a very important problem that receives far too little attention. Now, back to our usual fare.