What Responsible Person Favors Drunk Driving?
On August 9, 2014, Gary Green gave the following speech to attendees of MADD’s (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) first annual Accolades Luncheon in Little Rock, Arkansas, to recognize community members for their outstanding service.
Please think about that question today. Please remember it. If I stray with too many stories, or just talk too long about my support of MADD, please just take away (and role-play with me) the rhetorical question, “What reasonable person is in favor of drunk driving?”
Patricia, my wife of 18 years, is with me today. I could spend all my time extolling her virtues, but suffice it to say she is the love of my life and I am a better person because of her.
When Patricia and I married we each had two children from previous marriages, and we worked hard to meld our 2 + 2 family into our family.
We were lucky because our children were preteens back then! We did stuff altogether. We played games together.
One day while we were playing paper dolls one of the kids pulled out the Monopoly money and wanted to pretend we were in business. Patricia and I looked at each other and smiled and realized at the same time this was a lagniappe teaching experience, at a time when our kids would listen. So, we taught them how to count back change, and we taught them that a business must have and keep a good name.
I asked them how a business keeps its good reputation. They didn’t know, so I told them, “It’s very easy: if you say you’re gonna do something, you do it.” They nodded. “What’s a good name for our business?”
Alexia and Meggie conspiratorially blurted out, “Alexia and Meggie’s!”
“That is a good name, but an even better name would tell the world what the business does.”
Before long we settled on Alexia and Meggie’s Paper Doll Boutique.
I’m curious to know how many people in this room are familiar with an organization by the name of AAJ. The full name is American Association for Justice. If you know what the organization is and what it does, please raise your hand.
For those of you who didn’t raise your hands, I’ll tell you a little about AAJ.
AAJ was formed almost 70 years ago and was known until 2006 as the American Association of Trial Lawyers. It does a good job of supporting trial lawyers who represent consumers.
But the American Trial Lawyers Association lost its good name. How? It lost its good name because of an all-out war against it by that part of big business that trial lawyers sued often. Big business doesn’t like to pay out money. Some businesses will change countries just to reduce taxes! They particularly don’t like paying lawsuit claims.
Big business hired spin doctors and strategists and for years and years spent millions and millions of dollars to reduce law suit costs by convincing the general public that all lawsuits are frivolous lawsuits, brought by greedy trial lawyers. If we leave it to big business, claims for redress for injury in a car wreck will be decided by the same folks at the state office who issue our vehicle registration tags! Big business says to leave the lawyers out of it and evaluate all claims by a one-size-fits-all chart. If you’ve ever bought a one-size-fits-all piece of clothing, you know one size fits no one.
We’ve seen it for years, e.g., the Stella Award for the guy driving his RV down the freeway, who gets up from the steering wheel and walks back to the galley to fix a sandwich, wrecks the RV; and then sues the RV manufacturer for manufacturing a dangerous product! Did that really happen? Of course not. (And if you think perhaps it did, check it out on Snopes.com, and realize we’ve been lied to in order to advance a big business agenda.)
To further illustrate how bad it is, when I walk into a courthouse in any county of this state to deselect a jury, one of my first questions to the venire panel, before they know anything about the facts of the case, is, “Does anyone feel this is a frivolous lawsuit?” Sadly, more than one will raise their hands. (By the way, they just got deselected no matter what they say next.) But I then say, “Would it matter to you that my client is paralyzed, is in such bad shape that she’s in the hospital today rather than in court and that she was run down by a DWI driver who was over-served at a gentleman’s club?”
Those two or three potential jurors now start to crawfish and say they can be fair and impartial. I share this with you so you can see how devastating a public relations attack against an organization can be.
MADD is an ingenious name! It tells what the organization stands for (against drunk driving); the acronym, MADD, very well explains the feeling we get any time some innocent person is hurt by a drunk driver, and it has a great reputation – not even MADD’s detractors will say MADD people don’t mean well. (“They’re just crazy zealots!”)
Is MADD under attack the way ATLA has been? Yes, I see it. It’s a campaign of disinformation that describes everyone associated with MADD as a crazy zealot. MADD volunteers have become the greedy trial lawyers. The allegation that MADD is against drinking, per se, has become the frivolous lawsuit.
How does MADD keep its good name? It won’t be easy. Our detractors are in for the long haul. Special interests never stop. They will say we’re against all drinking, and we’ll have to remind them to read our name – that we’re against drunk driving! We’ll have to remind them that the issue of Prohibition was decided almost 100 years ago! They’ll call us zealots, and we’ll have to reply, calmly, with the rhetorical question, “What reasonable person is in favor of drunk driving?”
You liquor store owners and bar owners should be on our side. All you’ve got to do is tell that 18-year-old boy to come back in three years, and you’ll sell to him then. And tell that overly intoxicated person to come back tomorrow. The hospitality industry should be insisting on strict enforcement for the safety of its patrons. It should insist on responsibility; that its members carry insurance and lose their liquor license for multiple infractions.
LAW OFFICES OF GARY GREEN
If someone calls me and asks for representation in a DWI defense, I won’t take the case. Such is my devotion to MADD.
Law Offices of Gary Green has 3 slogans: We’re a people’s practice. We make house calls. And the one I’m most proud of, Law Offices of Gary Green makes a contribution to MADD in honor of every victim we represent against a drunk driver. We’ve made the contributions for more than 20 years, and I can tell you they will continue as long as I am around.
I’ve worked with some great MADD directors. The first, Theresa Belew, shepherded ignition interlock through the Arkansas Legislature (when the Arkansas Legislature was concentrating on tort reform and AAJ was scrambling to change its name)! Currently, I work with Pam Sell, who like all the directors in the past and current staff are consummate professionals. Whenever I represent someone affected by a drunk driver, I suggest they call MADD and hope they talk to Erin Blome, whom I know to be the type of person who can counsel or sympathize. I suspect some of you have cried on her shoulder, and suspect that late at night, when no one can see, she sheds tears for some of those she has tried to help.
If you have ever been to Washington, D.C., you might have seen the Robert Kennedy Memorial, where some of his quotations are cut into stone.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against an injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
– Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968, American Attorney General, Senator)
Drunk driving statistically is down. Is that coincidental? No. It’s because of these ripples of hope we’re all helping to spread.
When Jan Withers (National President of MADD) threw her rock, it went kersplash! It inspired us and gave us hope. (But it also called our detractors to arms.) Jan Withers called for ignition interlock laws to be further encouraged in all 50 states, with federal legislation that would limit funding to states that fail to comply with the law, Alisa’s Law, named in honor of Jan Withers’ daughter who was killed by a drunk driver. I earnestly support the endeavor and know, someday, ignition interlocks will be standard equipment on all vehicles! Why? Because, really, what reasonable person favors drunk driving?
I am proud to be a husband and father.
I am proud to be a trial lawyer.
I am proud to be a MADD advocate.
We are in for a long fight in defense of our good name, and I’m proud to fight alongside you MADD volunteers.