To repeat part of the lead from Part 1, rarely am I presented with a topic that neatly ties in so many concepts previously presented on Slabbed, such as cognative bias. For purposes of this post cognative bias involving the media as we again visit with Matt Labash at the hard line GOP media resource The Weekly Standard. We profiled Matt’s 1998 profile of the Castano Group of trial lawyers that took down big tobacco before training their sites on the nation’s gun manufacturers in part 1, where I labeled Matt’s story a “hit piece” and it is true it was one and beyond my own opinion I’ll add I’m merely repeating Matt’s 2006 description of his first profile of Wendell Gauthier, Danny Abel et al thus the post title. In the interim and despite the earlier “hit piece” Matt ended up befriending Abel and using his NOLA area contacts to write a second story on the big easy for the Weekly Standard, this time post Katrina plus 6 months that I thought was simply excellent. Before we highlight some of that story’s high points we need to fill in a bit of the gap between the death of Gauthier and Hurricane Katrina for Trout Point Lodge/La Ferme D’Acadie owner Danny Abel and his boy toy sidekick Shane (D’Antoni) Gates and for that we need to highlight one of Abel’s true life literary adventures in OUTGUNNED: The First Complete Insider Account of the Battle Over Gun Control. Luckily for all of us Abel’s co-author Peter Brown has been kind enough to share his thoughts on the endeavor with the Slabbed Nation but before we delve into the lawsuit Abel and his boy toy Shane Gates recently filed against Mr Brown using the legal services of Aaron Broussard we must first visit with a 3rd party review of the book, which Brown claims was a complete flop:
Meanwhile, Outgunned, by journalist Peter Harry Brown and trial attorney Daniel G. Abel, is about what’s happening in the here and now. More specifically, the book is a sympathetic look at the efforts of a nationwide consortium of trial lawyers (including Abel) who called themselves the “Castano Group,” and who took on the gun industry in the late 1990s. Why are these lawyers particularly interesting? While it’s true that others had already tried to sue the gun industry (including in a well-publicized New York litigation), the Castano lawyers were different. In the world of the plaintiff’s bar, they were the A-Team. They had resources, connections, and experience–including the experience of winning a $346 billion settlement from the tobacco companies. They were also ambitious. Beginning in 1998, the Castano lawyers launched anti-gun suits in cities across the country–until more than 30 state and local governments were involved in litigation against the gun industry.
The Castano lawyers knew this would be extremely challenging litigation and were proven correct–most of it has floundered or failed. So why did they do it? Not for the cash, insist the authors, who point out that the gun Companies do not have the same deep pockets as Big tobacco and could never offer the same kind of rich settlement that the tobacco litigation yielded. But even if one accepts that the lawyers’ motives were largely pure (maybe they were, maybe they weren’t)–and, indeed, even if one discounts their failures in court–Outgunned is not a book that inspires great confidence in the potential of litigation to solve the nation’s most vexing policy issues.
It also is not a very reflective or analytic book. To be fair, Outgunned bills itself as an “insider account of the battle over gun control.” This is meant to be juicy stuff, not a policy tract. But without much critical argument to distract the reader, the book bogs down in a muck of appalling details about the Castano lawyers who are supposed to be our heroes–facts that the authors unabashedly trot out and never successfully excuse. The key players include well-connected Washington, D.C., lawyer John Coale–who is called “the clown prince of the legal world”–and Cincinnati’s Stanley Chesley, a.k.a. the “sultan of settlement.” But the lion’s share of the limelight is reserved for the book’s co-author Abel and his partner, Wendell Gauthier, with whom Abel bonded at the site of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Ah yes, those were the days. “While an elephant chased Gauthier through the streets of India,” recall the authors, “Abel crept over terrain with thickets full of cobras to spy on the Union Carbide plant.” Continue reading