Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Solicitor Issue: Things We Know Now

1. The resolution authorizing a council solicitor was never introduced.

2. Doug Shields is home sick today, and that may or may not have played a role.

3. Councilman Motznik was on KDKA this morning with Marty Griffin talking smack on the very idea of a council solicitor. That may or may not have played a role.

4. A member of Council who differs with Jim ought to go on KDKA, ASAP. If Councilman Motznik really wants to grandstand this issue out on the airwaves, he ought to be prepared to get as good as he can give.

5. There are currently four votes for a Council solicitor. GUESS WHO'S NOT THE FIFTH VOTE YET.


Is there anyone out there who still thinks that our City Solicitor is in a position to play the role of impartial umpire of the law?

"(Shields) wants to do this because he doesn't get the answers he likes when it comes to billboards or vehicles, the petty stuff that a few council members worry about," Motznik said. "It's kind of like going to a different doctor because you don't like your prognosis that this doctor is giving you." LINK.

First of all, we would hardly call deep-seated balance of power issues, and issues of rampant ongoing noncompliance with our own law, "petty stuff."

Secondly, all lawyers -- by definition -- are wrong approximately half of the time. It is their job to argue a position. That is why we use the "adversarial" relationship in modern legal practice and consider it such an efficient and valuable thing. If we are going to deliberate at Council, both sides should have some technical expertise. It is what the framers intended.

It would also be good for the people. Why should we have one wizened figure emerge to say, "I am a lawyer; I know." This is not robust dialogue.

We should be unafraid to have spirited, public legal conversations, to show both our deference to the law and our concern that it be applied uniformly and in good faith.

It is said that the man who represents himself has a fool for a client. City Council should be at all times responsible, serious and cooperative with the administration. But we can afford it to be a fool no longer.

RELATED: The Burgher


  1. Not to quibble, but I think its inaccurate to say that ALL lawyers are "by definition" wrong half the time. This is inaccurate. I don't see how this assertion is born out by fact or logic. Further, while attorney's will argue a clients position, there are plenty of occasions where there are multiple defensible legal positions, meaning that the losing attorney is not necessarily "wrong," they just represented the client with the weaker legal standing.

  2. Yes, it was a poetic devise. But you get what I mean. The lawyers are only "right" when they have stronger legal standing on an issue ... and we rarely know who is "right" until we have witnessed at least two legal minds grappling out their positions and their research for at least 20 minutes. This should happen WITHIN a law dept ideally, but practically it can occur only to the extent that outcomes are viewed as practical to the recipients of that legal counsel.

  3. Right, your device works in the world of litigation, but only in the aggregate. That is, in any given trial one lawyer wins a battle of persuasion and one loses it. But if you consider the NFL as analogous, you might rather have the Patriots as your lawyer, since they lost only one of their
    "cases" this past season.

    I still say a council lawyer might be a dangerous thing. His/her opinion, if different from the city solicitor’s, could be used in litigation against the city. That litigation might have added power, since it relied on the legal opinion of a city lawyer, albeit an employee of Council.

    I agree though that George Specter’s behavior as solicitor has left much to be desired. He is maybe the one person who could rein in the Mayor’s excesses, but to do so would be to create his own pink slip. But the solution lies somewhere other than council. I still advocate a city parliamentarian, and nominate Yarone Zober.

  4. Yes, it would similarly make perfect sense to have Congress represented by the Attorney General. Given that Lamar's IDENTICAL legal argument (though based on Monroeville code) was THOROUGHLY rejected at Common Pleas and Superior Court (and en banc rehearing denied Feb. 14),it is at best lay taht Specter professedhis inability to render an opinion for the benefit of his putative client.

  5. that's "lazy that"

  6. the little bastard is costing this city more than money. And isn't Jim Ferlo just all peachy with a shadow government at the URA that has no oversight at all. If Murphy was doing this Jim would have tied himself to something and arrested. But now that it is HIS big fat cronyistic ass is in the seat at the ura everything is just peachy keen with his best bud Lukey.

  7. Sen Jim Ferlo rewrote the code on Billboards made it very restrictive. It is very funny to see him defending the bunch of dupas in the mayor's office. Hey Jimmy! Hope you enjoy having your head up luke's ass.

  8. Bram was nuts to write that a member of Council who differs with Jim Motznik ought to go on KDKA, ASAP.

    KDKA would love to have a guest on council on any show and then get to play the song, "If I Only Had a Brain" -- repeatedly.

    KDKA radio is hostile ground to those on council -- even if the show host is in agreement.

    Going on the air is NOT prudent for those who chase their tails.

    Very bad advice, Bram.

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