The first thing we do

Is shoot all the lawyers. Glenn Reynolds draws our attention to an absurd parody of justice and recompense:

In 2013, Yahoo announced that it would begin scanning its users’ e-mail for targeted advertising purposes—just as Google does. As is par for the course, class-action lawsuits were filed. The Silicon Valley media giant, according to one of the lawsuits, was violating the “personal liberties” of non-Yahoo Mail users. That’s because non-Yahoo Mail users, who have sent mail to Yahoo mail users, were having their e-mail scanned without their permission.

The suit, which was one of six that were co-mingled as a single class action, demanded that a judge halt the scanning and award each victim “$5,000 or three times actual damages” in addition to “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Fast forward three years. The case is now closed. Days ago, a Silicon Valley federal judge signed off (PDF) on a settlement (PDF). The lawyers won, they were awarded $4 million (£3 million), and the public got nothing. What’s more, the settlement allows Yahoo to continue to scan e-mails without non-Yahoo users’ consent.

It’s almost as though class-action suits have become nothing more than shakedown operations for lawyers.

We will, of course, spare Dr. Reynolds as the proverbial exception to the rule and award him his pick of his former colleague’s estates.

It would be in the definite interest of the American people to pass a law that forbids lawyers to collect more than 10 percent of any settlement or court-dictated award. Unfortunately, the lawyers in Congress are very unlikely to ever permit the passage of anything that would restrain the rapacious predation of their colleagues.