Philip K. Howard on a broken legal system where common sense is uncommon (TX)


Estate of Denial® was recently alerted to a compelling Philip K. Howard video which as we move through the 2012 election cycle contains important perspective that – whether they realize it or not – is impacting the lives of all Americans.  Howard is founder of Common Good, a nonpartisan, nonprofit reform coalition that offers new ideas to restore common sense to all three branches of government.

In the video, Howard discusses how lawsuits have damaged basic trust in our society, not only stifling business growth and innovation, but also in limiting our freedom.  These same limitations on freedom are increasingly seen in probate venues as abusive use of legal instruments like wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney threaten the property rights of individuals by too often illicitly diverting or otherwise ignoring specified wishes with regard to final distributions of assets.  Or, as we call it at EoD, estate looting.  These acts also impede the inheritance rights of legitimate heirs and beneficiaries.

“We’ve been trained to squint into a legal microscope, hoping that we can judge any dispute against the standard of a perfect society, where everyone will agree what’s fair, and where accidents will be extinct, risk will be no more,” Howard says.  He says that “what people can sue for establishes boundaries for everyone else’s freedom.”

Howard further discusses how a lack of personal responsibility creates more legal chaos as business and other entities take defensive actions hoping to avoid lawsuits.  This absence of common sense and personal responsibility was suggested in a July 12 letter in Bell County’s Temple Daily Telegram.

A July 8 lightning strike at the city of Temple’s water treatment plant temporarily disabled operations causing the city to issue a “water disaster declaration” based on fears that a diminished water supply could hamper fire department efforts in the event of a fire.  At a point, residents were put under a boil water notice thus apparently prompting this letter to the local paper:

Boil water rigorously

During the recent water treatment plant shutdown, the city of Temple website instructed me to “boil water rigorously for two minutes before consumption.”

This caused me to badly burn my mouth.  Who should I complain to?

Michael Craig

While unlikely to be published, this response was submitted by an EoD-affiliated individual experienced with both abusive legal practices and the common sense void thriving within the legal industry specifically and the public at large.

This letter is in response to the July 12, 2012 “Boil Water Vigorously” letter submitted by Michael Craig.

I would caution Mr. Craig the next time he is planning on taking a shower and washing his hair with shampoo.  If he follows the shampoo manufacturer’s instructions (i.e. lather, rinse, repeat) he will never get out of the shower and be able to submit another insightful “Letter to the Editor” again!

John Anderson
Temple, TX

Howard says “the land of the free has become a legal minefield” causing much work to be “paralyzed by fear of suits.”  This Letter to the Editor is only one reminder that Howard’s absolutely right.  Though Temple chose a prudent course geared toward overall public protection, today’s world sees many entities fearfully reacting to similar situations by deferring to often isolated and unknown legal threats that seemingly abound in our current environment.  A “need to overhaul and simplify the law” is a generalization of Howard’s advocated course, but such a thought process undoubtedly heads in the right direction!

For substantive reform to occur, however, people will have to recognize the negative impact of overreaching regulations along with the growing numbers of nonsensically intrusive laws.  This is a complicated issue with many separate components deserving attention, but the important starting point comes with understanding how an out-of-control legal system is limiting freedom and self-interestedly consuming resources (financial and other).  This is not a problem affecting only large businesses, the “rich” or some other population segment that rarely draws empathy.  Many other Americans are increasingly harmed by this broken legal system without ever realizing what’s happening.

This video provides a great start for understanding what’s at stake today and the threats a broken legal system poses for future generations.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture. She is the Online Producer at, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity – Texas and a Director of Women on the Wall. Lou Ann may be contacted at

Commentary, Video