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Bruce Braley stumbles

by Walter Olson on March 26, 2014

Rep. Bruce Braley, a former head of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, has since his election been perhaps the most diligent advocate of Litigation Lobby interests in the House of Representatives. He had also been considered the front-runner for the Senate seat of departing Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, until a covert video leaked out of Braley apparently fund-raising at a trial lawyer gathering in Texas [Des Moines Register]:

To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone’s who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Almost nothing about the remarks — including the slighting tone toward Grassley, senior senator and a popular figure in the state — is likely to increase Braley’s appeal to Iowa voters. Dan McLaughlin writes:

As a lawyer myself, I like the idea that we should have some lawyers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and on its staff, but the whole point of democracy is that the common man gets a say in how he is governed, not just the experts. Relatedly, Braley’s stress on “your background, your experience, your voice” just emphasizes how he sees the voice and interests of trial lawyers as one that will be very different from that of farmers. …

he manages to sneak in the fact that he’s been a longstanding opponent of tort reform, and doesn’t even bother to come up with some focus-group-tested euphemism for reform. He’s bluntly telling the trial lawyers in the audience that he’s for their interests – not like those Iowa farmers.

A Grassley spokeswoman said that if it was somehow improper for a non-lawyer to lead a committee on legal matters, “a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care.” Per the Washington Post, “Over the course of his legislative career, Braley has raised $3.5 million from lawyers and law firms.”

And Twitter was kind of brutal:

More: James Taranto, WSJ (“So God made a lawyer”). And here’s a flashback clip where Braley badgers well-known health policy expert Sally Pipes over whether she has an advanced degree.

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Election open thread

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2014

Trial lawyer and inveterate Litigation Lobby booster Bruce Braley lost his Iowa senate bid (“He comes across as arrogant, and I think it’s because he is,” said an unnamed Democratic official.) Sen. Mark Pryor, chief Senate handler of the awful CPSIA law, lost big.

Massachusetts voters again rejected Martha Coakley, whose prosecutorial decisions we have found so hard to square with the interests of justice. The Wisconsin Blue Fist school of thought, which sees organized government employees as the natural and truly legitimate governing class, met with a rebuff from voters not only in Wisconsin itself but in neighboring Illinois (where Gov. Quinn, of Harris v. Quinn fame, went down to defeat) and elsewhere. Colorado voters rejected GMO labeling, while a similar Oregon bill was trailing narrowly this morning but not with enough votes to call.

California voters rejected Prop 46, to raise MICRA medical liability limits, require database use and impose drug testing of doctors, by a 67-33 margin, and also rejected Prop 45, intensifying insurance regulation, by a 60-40 margin (earlier).

I’ve written a lot at my Free State Notes blog about the governor’s race in my own state of Maryland, and unlike most others was not surprised at Larry Hogan’s stunning upset victory. The politics category there includes my letter to Washington Post-reading independents and moderates about why they should feel comfortable electing Hogan as a balance to the state’s heavily Democratic legislature, as well as my parody song about what I thought a revealing gaffe by Hogan’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 21, 2014

  • Texas trial lawyer lobby has attacked Greg Abbott on theme of his accident for years without success, Wendy Davis would have been smarter to tell ‘em no [Politico]
  • Wondering about ObamaCare rate hikes? You’ll get to find out right after the election [Washington Times]
  • “Four more years of ‘pay-to-play’ if DeWine returns as Ohio AG, says Dem challenger” [LNL]
  • Blades concealed? Environmental group’s Iowa, Colorado attack ads play bad cop to wind lobbyists’ good cop [Tim Carney]
  • “W.Va. trial lawyers’ campaign donations near $600K” [W.V. Record]
  • With all the serious issues in the Maryland governor’s race, what’s this guy doing writing a parody song about Anthony Brown’s “Frederickstown” gaffe? [Free State Notes]
  • “Dear Trial Lawyer Colleague, One of our own, Bruce Braley, is in the fight of his life” [Joel Gehrke, earlier]

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October 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 3, 2014

  • Posner smacks lawyers, vindicates objectors in Radio Shack coupon settlement [CCAF, Fisher, more]
  • “Germany To Consider Ban On Late-Night Work Emails” [Alexander Kaufman, Huffington Post]
  • 7th Circuit overturns Wisconsin John Doe ruling, sends back to state judges [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, ruling; more, Vox] John Doe case prosecutor John Chisholm, via columnist Dan Bice, strikes back against source in office who talked to Stuart Taylor, Jr. [Taylor, Althouse]
  • Trial lawyer/massive Democratic donor Steve Mostyn also dabbles in Texas Republican primaries [Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News; Mostyn's national spending from Florida and Arizona to New Hampshire and Minnesota]
  • Sad: immigration lawyer known for Iraqi Christian advocacy faces asylum fraud charges [Chicago Tribune]
  • Might have been entertaining had Bruce Braley opponent Joni Ernst in Iowa argued in favor of nullification, but that’s not what evidence shows [Ramesh Ponnuru]
  • California hobbles insurers with diverse-procurement regulations [Ian Adams, Insurance Journal]

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on September 8, 2014

  • California may lead in number of arrested lawmaker scandals but jealous New York vows to catch up [NYDN]
  • Will voters in hotly contested Massachusetts primary remember Martha Coakley’s central role in the Amirault travesty of justice?
  • “State of unions: Illinois’ big unionized workforce has become a big campaign issue” [Peoria Journal Star] Teachers’ union top priority: unseat GOP governors [Politico]
  • In which I’m quoted saying relatively favorable things about left-leaning New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout (though “enjoyed interacting with” is a long way from “would consider voting for”) [Capital New York]
  • Meet the trial-lawyer-driven group behind the Rick Perry indictment [Texas Tribune; more of what's up in Texas]
  • Senate incumbents Reid, Pryor, and Durbin and hopeful Bruce Braley among recipients of asbestos law firm money [MCR, Legal NewsLine] Key trial lawyer ally Durbin has slipped in polls [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Montana Democrats’ candidate for U.S. Senate looking a little Wobbly [Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon; A. Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch; #wobblydem]

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on July 21, 2014

  • Bruce Braley’s “farmer” gaffe might hurt long-term because it fits into a wider pattern about the would-be Iowa senator [John Tabin/Rare, earlier]
  • Disbarred ex-D.A. and longtime Overlawyered favorite Andrew Thomas running for GOP Arizona governor nomination [Phoenix New Times]
  • Did Wisconsin John Doe probe include email dragnet? Yahoo billed DA for “costs associated with subpoena compliance” [M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter, more]
  • “We need a Democratic sweep. Stay focused.” — work-hours tweet by former Federal Election Commission enforcement lawyer whose hard drive, like that of her former FEC boss Lois Lerner, now tragically missing [House Oversight report, Daily Caller]
  • Texas hurricane claims: megadonor Steve Mostyn “successfully drags state senator into TWIA lawsuit” [Legal NewsLine, TLR]
  • No more pay to play? Two Ohio lawmakers seek to curb campaign giving by law firms hired by state’s attorney general [Aurora Advocate]
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s research on medical bankruptcy may be shaky, but it’s hard to fault her taste in English sports cars [Ira Stoll, American Spectator]

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2014

  • NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
  • Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
  • 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a "this day and trip only" theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
  • “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley's IRS intervention, Watchdog]
  • Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
  • Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
  • Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
  • John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
  • Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2014

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April 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 26, 2013

  • Police in city of Manchester, U.K. say they’ll record attacks on punks, Goths as hate crimes [AP]
  • If claiming severe permanent injuries from auto mishap, best not to place well in a marathon six months later [West Virginia Record]
  • “Altering or deleting a Facebook account during litigation may be … spoliation of evidence” [Paul Kostro, Brian Wassom, Jim Dedman]
  • Note to Trademark Office: “breastaurant” is not trademarkable [David Post; earlier here, here, and here]
  • Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, a Litigation Lobby stalwart, seeks Senate seat of retiring Harkin [DMR, earlier]
  • Meta? Lawyer files suit over a suit [the Brooks Brothers kind] [Staci Zaretsky, Above the Law]
  • Judge Shadur: “the most egregious fraud on the court … encountered in [my] nearly 33 years on the bench.” [Courthouse News]
  • Do you enjoy reading Overlawyered? Check back later today, after 9 a.m. Eastern, for a major announcement about the site!

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Election results

by Walter Olson on November 3, 2010

Feel free to discuss in comments. Some results (our preview post from Monday is here):

* In Iowa, Rep. Bruce Braley, a former plaintiff’s lawyer and leading spokesman for trial bar interests on Capitol Hill, appears to have squeaked through, but former ATLA/AAJ president Roxanne Conlin came nowhere close in her Senate bid against incumbent Chuck Grassley.

* Demagogic attacks on Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young failed, as Michigan voters retained him. Illinois Supreme Court justice Thomas Kilbride, greatly aided by cash from unions, Democrats and you-know-who, won’t pay a retention price for a lawless decision striking down legislated limits on med-mal suits.

* The New York attorney general race wasn’t that tight after all, with Democrat Eric Schneiderman winning by 11 points, nor was the Connecticut senate race, where perennial Overlawyered bete noire Richard Blumenthal won by 10. Despite suggestions that attorney general candidate Kamala Harris was too far left even for California, she was running slightly ahead in late returns.

* Rhode Island voters turned down a proposal to change the official name of their state, “”State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” to appease the misplaced sensitivities of some who imagine that the word “plantations” implies a connection to slavery.

* Oklahomans ill-advisedly voted to forbid their courts from considering international law, even in the relatively narrow and well-defined circumstances where it has been traditional for them to do so. More: Roger Alford, OJ.

* Big news from Ohio, where voters turned out of office Democratic attorney general Richard Cordray, lately lionized by the New York Times as the next big activist A.G. The “next Eliot Spitzer” Times curse lives on!

* Via B.L.T., the House Judiciary Committee is set for a truly monumental ideological remake assuming that Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) is replaced by Lamar Smith (R-Tex.). Some changes will be coming along at Senate Judiciary as well.

* Republicans scored surprise inroads in Madison County, Illinois, the pro-plaintiff jurisdiction near St. Louis that has long generated vastly more than its share of high-ticket litigation. In particular, they managed to beat influential state representative/trial lawyer Jay Hoffman of Collinsville, a one-time floor leader for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, per reports by Ann Knef at the Chamber-backed Madison County Record and the Edwardsville Intelligencer.

* Mandatory employer recognition of unions on a “card check” basis without so much as a secret ballot? No thanks, say voters in four states [Wood; Hirsch/Workplace Prof].

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June 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 11, 2010

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November 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 10, 2009

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Add the Stony Brook University Hospital cafeteria to the list of servers unsuccessfully sued over burns caused by hot coffee. If you recall, the theory of the McDonald’s coffee case (and repeated by such trial lawyer defenders as congressional candidate Bruce Braley) was that McDonald’s, and only McDonald’s, served coffee so hot as to burn. For some reason, the reporter for the New York Law Journal tries to leave the reader with the impression that the original Stella Liebeck case was justifiable (though that opinion is irrelevant to the article itself) which shows how successful trial lawyer propaganda has been within the legal community and press. (John Caher, “N.Y. Judge Cool to Injury Claims Over Spilled Coffee”, New York Law Journal, Nov. 2). We earlier listed other hot coffee lawsuit defendants.

Speaking of which, you may recall the Russian McDonald’s coffee case litigation that we covered a year ago, with identical allegations from a woman who spilled coffee on herself; the press is reporting that the plaintiff has dropped her case. As in the Stella Liebeck case, the Russian McDonald’s had a warning on the coffee cup that the contents were hot. (“Moscow McDonald’s coffee-spill case closed”, RIA Novosti, 1 Nov.).

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Yes, it’s fairly common for trial lawyers to be a candidate’s major backers, but sometimes it gets ridiculous. In the race among seven candidates to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Nussle in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, the contender who leads by a healthy margin in fundraising is 48-year-old Waterloo lawyer Bruce Braley, a Democrat who is a former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association and currently sits on the board of ATLA. He’s raised $305,629 through September:

Braley’s fundraising prowess has turned heads already. And so has the source of his money. Of the $253,000 in individual donations itemized on campaign finance reports, $227,000, or 90 percent, comes from lawyers. It’s a wide base, too. Donors from more than three dozen states have given money.

Of the $23,250 in political action committee money he’s received, half came from attorney-related committees, including $10,000 from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, or ATLA….

“People who know me think I would make a very good representative,” he says….

One law firm that has been a prime target for conservatives also is a generous donor to Braley. Fifteen lawyers associated with the Baron & Budd firm in Dallas, one of the leaders in litigating asbestos and other toxic substance claims, gave $15,000 to the campaign.

In all, 85 percent of Braley’s donations have come from outside the district. (Ed Tibbetts, “In a seven-horse race, it’s all about the purse”, Quad City Times, Nov. 14).