Let's see if we can get this straight. Several hundred people are going to sue Eric Conn for malpractice for getting them a bunch of money some weren't entitled to.
These are people, to quote Sen. Rand Paul, whose back hurts and who are nervous. Now they face the prospect of having to go to work with a sore back and a bad case of nerves like the rest of us.
Well, they would go to work, but first they have to move away from Eastern Kentucky, where, if a man had a hunk of baloney, he would have to climb a tree to eat it.
These people, clients of the ubiquitous "Eric the Conn," have not met him, but would recognize him if they saw him, because of his billboards. They went to him for obvious reasons. If your lawyer rigs the system, you have an excellent chance of winning. The rest of us, billboardless lawyers, who might win five or six out of 10 Social Security cases, because we are hampered by honest judges, have sat and watched our disability practice dry up, and now we are being asked to jump in Eric's cases and work our hineys off free of charge to help those who gang rejected us in the first place. They passed the Statue of Liberty on their way to the broken promise land. Across the road is the cane rental shop.
Historically, the disability culture in the mountains goes back to the late '60s and early '70s, when Carl D. Perkins in Congress and Kelsey Friend in the Kentucky Senate got the government to subsidize disability and punish work.
We first learned a new word, "pneumoconiosis," and if you could get some doctor or two to say you had it, and if you had some slight proof that you had once walked by a coal mine, then you got a big monthly draw, which, coupled with your Social Security disability check, and perhaps your UMWA pension check, meant you were more financially secure to be disabled than abled.
My writing mentor, Gayle Compton, wrote of Dry John Elliott, who lived in an abandoned school bus, praying that he would be found to have black lung. The words "permanent and total" were spoken more often than John 3:16.
Now if you can get a doctor to claim you are in constant pain, that doctor is duty bound to write you a prescription for pain pills, to be paid for by some worker's comp carrier or the government.
So we ease into the late 20th century with half our population on disability, raising children who know no other way of life. The income is low but a valuable commodity, easily marketable, comes into the house free of charge.
Put this into an economy fashioned by the coal industry, whose false doctrine taught us that we didn't need any other kinds of jobs because we had 200 years worth of coal, and what do you get?
You get addiction.
You get drug trafficking.
You get children whose role models are those who can trick the system.
You get advertising lawyers who put so much pressure on themselves by their claims of success that they trick the system.
That leads to other unsavory things, like senators and newspapers demanding indictments of people while still being unable to report substantiated facts constituting crime.
Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at email@example.com.