Written by Tom Gordon
Almost every driver has gotten a traffic ticket at some point. And almost every one of those drivers would have liked to have exercised their right to fight the ticket in court. Most decide not to, though, because of the expense of hiring a lawyer or taking time off to appear in court themselves.
A Florida company called TIKD has solved this problem by analyzing years of data from traffic tickets to determine the likelihood of a ticket being dismissed and using that to set pre-negotiated prices with lawyers. People with a traffic ticket can use a phone app to take a picture of their ticket and send it to TIKD. TIKD then analyzes the ticket and charges you a price less than the amount of your traffic fine. TIKD will then pay for a lawyer to fight your ticket and will cover the cost of any fines if you lose your case. Essentially, TIKD is getting consumers a discount on their traffic tickets by leveraging its knowledge of traffic court data and its ability to negotiate low rates with traffic lawyers. I had the opportunity to use the service and saved $25 on a $100 ticket when a speed camera said I was going 36mph in a 25mph zone.
While consumers have loved this service since its debut last year, the Florida Bar hasn't been so happy. As is often the case when the bar feels threatened by new business models (especially ones that use technology), the Florida Bar launched an investigation of TIKD for the unauthorized practice of law. In response, TIKD is suing the Florida Bar for antitrust violations, claiming that the investigation is being undertaken to protect existing law firms rather than to protect consumers.
We'll be commenting more on the TIKD case against the Florida Bar in the months to come. However, one of the most appalling aspects of the Florida Bar's defense against this suit is to claim that it is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suit. SLAPPs—according to the Florida Bar Journal!—are "legal actions brought against concerned citizens, bloggers, journalists, businesses, and other entities involved in speaking out on issues of concern to the public." In other words, SLAPPs are cases brought by powerhouses to intimidate the small, strong voice who speaks out against them.
It is Orwellian for the Florida Bar, which spends nearly $2 million of its $69 million dollar budget on fighting the "unauthorized practice of law" to claim that a small startup is intimidating it by challenging its monopoly over the legal services industry. In fact, it is the Florida Bar that is acting to intimidate its competitors by using the regulatory system it controls to threaten them with legal action.
Tom Gordon is the Executive Director at Responsive Law.