(Tom Jirik wrote columns in several newspapers in Iowa from the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. This column originally appeared in the The Boone Today)
Question: What has more suits than Des Moines clothier Bill Reichardt?
Answer: The U.S. Justice system.
It has more suits than it knows what to do with. In fact, the justice system in this country is jammed by lawsuits. People today sue at the drop of a hat. Litigation has become one of this country’s most widely practiced indoor sports. In many cases it’s even a spectator sport.
What a sad commentary on our society. Our ability to work out our own differences seems to decline proportionately to the increase in lawsuits filed. The courts are jammed with neighbors fighting neighbors, family members fighting family members and corporations fighting corporations. Consequently, the important issues and criminal cases must wait in line with our petty differences.
At least two fellows are fed up with it all. Rather than litigate, they will arm-wrestle to settle a corporate dispute. Kurt Herwald is chairman of Stevens Aviation Inc. in Greenville, S.C. His opponent will be Herb Kelleher, chairman of Southwest Airlines in Dallas. The men are at odds over an advertising slogan. The man who wins two of three arm-wrestling matches wins the exclusive rights to the slogan.
It’s not a bad idea. In fact, it’s kind of appealing in an American-Gladiator sort of way. Here is two white-collar guys settling a dispute in a down-to-earth-blue-collar manner. Some of us can’t afford to hire attorneys for protracted legal battles. We have to find other ways to settle our differences. It’s about time executives and CEO’s learned how to do that.
Mike Mulvihill, a spokesperson for Helleher, told Knight-Ridder Newspapers, “More people should consider doing this.”
I’m inclined to agree. I’m not advocating a return to dueling with swords or pistols here. Nor do I think a bare-knuckle fight to finish is a viable alternative. The competition would need to be more civilized than that and have little chance of physical injury. Opponents would both have to agree on the competition and rules. The competitors flip coins, draw cards, play poker or shoot baskets. There are hundreds of options. Feuding carpenters could have a board-swing contest. Disputing musicians could compete to see who could play the Minute Waltz the fastest.
The results would be quick and clean. There would be no appeals, no court costs and no waiting. Judge Wapner would love it. And maybe in the process we could learn how to resolve our differences without the help of a battery of lawyers and a fist full of legal briefs.
Still, one thing bothers me about these arm-wrestling airline executives. Does this mean they are taking the law into their own hands?