Posts tagged as:

litigation lobby

Timothy Lee in Vox; see also.

Sen. Harry Reid seems to have been central:

“We felt really good the last couple of days,” said the tech lobbyist. “It was a good deal—one we could live with. Then the trial lawyers and pharma went to Senator Reid late this morning and said that’s it. Enough with the children playing in the playground—go kill it.”…

Trial lawyers are heavy donors to Democratic politicians, including Reid. … The long history of the divide over other kinds of legal tort reform loomed over the bill, which was dubbed the Innovation Act in the House. The fact that it was the trial lawyers’ lobby that reportedly delivered the death blow suggests that the rift only got wider as debate dragged on.

Key Litigation Lobby allies like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spoke out against the legislation on the Senate floor. [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]

{ 1 comment }

Phrases I wish I had coined: from a Walter Russell Mead post on Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to rein in escalating litigiousness in Britain.

Glenn Garvin at the Miami Herald has spotted a trend on the film festival circuit. Among the questions he raises: why was the New York Times so oddly unskeptical about the Chevron-bashing opus Crude? And why was such widespread credulity accorded to the showcasing of Jamie Leigh Jones’s lawsuit in Susan Saladoff’s Hot Coffee? More: Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use.

{ 2 comments }

Remember the “Halliburton rape” case, where the national media uncritically passed along claims that a young woman had been viciously assaulted by co-workers while stationed in the Middle East, then confined to a container by beastly managers when she tried to complain, and finally suffered the ultimate indignity when her employment contract required her to submit the claims to arbitration? It’s a tale that was advanced by politicians like Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), by some of the usual suspects in opinion journalism, and especially by the litigation lobby as part of its campaign against contractually provided-for arbitration (as with the much-reviewed, HBO-aired “Hot Coffee“). Not a few of these advocates — like the left-leaning ThinkProgress — threw “allegedly” to the winds and flatly accused the co-workers of rape.

Unless you’d read one of the very few skeptical evaluations of the case — many of them written by Ted Frank — you may have been shocked this July when a Houston jury summarily rejected Jamie Leigh Jones’s lawsuit. Now — better late than never — the Houston Chronicle shreds the popular narrative of the affair and its media coverage in particular (ABC News: a tale of “sexual brutality, corporate indifference and government inaction.”) Is it too much to hope that anyone will be embarrassed enough to apologize?

More: As commenter E-Bell notes, journalist Stephanie Mencimer, with whom we’ve had our differences in the past, deserves due credit for this July coverage in the unlikely venue of Mother Jones. And quoth @Popehat: “‘Putting the victim on trial’ is code for ‘defending yourself and testing the evidence.’”

{ 10 comments }

June 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 20, 2011

Politics edition:

  • Mother ship? White House staffers depart for Harvard Law School [Politico]
  • New York: “Lawmakers consider lawyer-friendly med-mal bills,” even as many key legislators moonlight at personal injury firms [Reuters]
  • David Brooks on explosive political potential of Fannie Mae scandal [NYTimes] After Kentucky bar panel’s vote to disbar Chesley, Ohio AG pulls him off Fannie Mae suit [Adler, Frank, Beth Musgrave/Lexington Herald-Leader]
  • Alabama legislature removes Jim Crow language from state constitution — but black lawmakers oppose the idea [Constitutional Daily]
  • AAJ lobbyist Andy Cochran works GOP turf, has convinced trial lawyers to sponsor Christian radio program [Mokhiber, "Seventh Amendment Advocate"]
  • Centers for Disease Control funnels grants to allies for political advocacy on favored public-health causes [Jeff Stier, Daily Caller]
  • Must have mistaken her for a jury: “John Edwards Sought Millions From Heiress” [ABC News] “One thing [worse than Edwards's] conduct is the government’s effort to put him in jail for it.” [Steve Chapman]

{ 1 comment }

June 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 14, 2011

{ 1 comment }

David Ingram, National Law Journal:

The New York-based Center for Justice and Democracy, which describes its mission as “protecting our civil justice system,” released a statement calling Obama’s remarks “disgusting” because many proposed changes would affect cases with merit. “The Republican proposals would weaken the legal rights of sick and injured patients and lessen the accountability of incompetent doctors and unsafe hospitals,” the statement said.

I haven’t seen a direct link to the “disgusting” statement yet, only the NLJ/Legal Times coverage, so I’ll try not to jump to conclusions. (Update: link here, h/t gitarcarver). But I’ve wondered before whether the tone taken by the misnamed Center for Justice and Democracy is so harshly abrasive and shrill that it actually alienates the sorts of centrists and moderate liberals that its trial-lawyer constituency should be trying to win over. Earlier on CJD here, here, here, here, etc.

{ 5 comments }

At Abnormal Use, Nick Farr brings some scrutiny to what’s looking like the big trial-bar media venture of the season.

P.S. And a follow-up that really stands on its own as a resource: “The Stella Liebeck McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case FAQ

{ 7 comments }

Last week my colleagues at the Manhattan Institute put out a report in their Trial Lawyers Inc. series taking a look at the lobbying clout of the plaintiff’s bar in Washington and elsewhere. It’s full of interesting details and vignettes, and now Jim Copland, who presided over the compiling of the report, will be blogging it all week at Point of Law. His first installment is here.

{ 2 comments }

According to the U.S. Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, the litigation lobby is quietly preparing to push through a $1.6 billion (with a “b”) tax break that would let contingent-fee lawyers deduct expenses as made, rather than in the year of settling a suit. American Association for Justice lobbyist Linda Lipsen says Sens. Harry Reid and Max Baucus and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel are among those on board, as well as “some Republicans”, but “the problem is there is not a tax vehicle yet,” — “You cannot have a stand alone bill to help lawyers … so we have to tuck it into something.” [cross-posted, and slightly adapted, from Point of Law; updates and additional links there]

{ 7 comments }

Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch criticizes the trial lawyers’ association for excluding the press from its annual convention, but the tactic seems to have worked pretty well in lowering the group’s lobbying profile and deflecting serious coverage of the parade of politicians, from Nancy Pelosi to Henry Waxman to DNC chair and Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who have made the pilgrimage as speakers to pay their respects. More: AAJ’s response.

{ 5 comments }

kidsdancearoundtree

Given that nearly every member of Congress voted for CPSIA last year, it’s not surprising that that body of lawmakers was slow to respond to reports of the law’s catastrophic consequences. It’s beginning to happen now, though. Republicans have been in the lead, the latest sign being a strong letter from ranking House Commerce minority members Reps. George Radanovich (R-Calif.) and Joe Barton (R-Calif.) asking for a hearing. The motorcycle/powersports issue has also kindled widespread interest from Hill members (example: Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho).

On March 4 there was a welcome break in the ice on the Democratic side as well. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) sent a letter to the commissioners of the CPSC that, although cautiously worded, acknowledges many of the reports of calamitous consequences from around the country, something that his colleagues Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) have been unwilling to do (when not dismissing those reports as based on misinformed or uninformed rumor). Of course, there is famously no love lost between Dingell and Waxman, who ousted him as Commerce chair. But Dingell’s stand could give cover for other Democrats to join in heeding the public outcry as legitimate. That letter in turn has prompted many CPSIA critics to write Dingell letters in hopes of arming him with more facts and arguments on the law’s ill effects: see in particular Rick Woldenberg and Wacky Hermit.

Waxman, for his part, has announced his intent to hold no hearing on the law until the Obama Administration installs a new chair at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That serves the multiple functions of 1) stalling (while more small enterprises are driven out of business and thus are neutralized as political threats); 2) reinforcing the impression that the ball is in someone else’s court on addressing the law’s harms; 3) assisting in orchestrating whatever hearing is eventually held, since he expects an ally of his own to be installed as CPSC chair (the ultimate nightmare for CPSIA critics in that job would be someone like Pamela Gilbert, the class action lawyer, former plaintiff’s-lawyer lobbyist, and longtime Litigation Lobby figure who ran the Obama transition effort for the agency).

The membership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, by the way, is listed here (hit “membership”; scroll to “Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection” to find the members most directly involved). The membership of the Senate Commerce Committee is listed here and that of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance here.

Some miscellaneous weekend reading about the law: John Markley, Bureaucrash; Michael Maletic (Weil Gotshal & Manges), Republican National Lawyers Association; Ed Driscoll, Pajamas Media.
Public domain graphic: Grandma’s Graphics, Ruth Mary Hallock.

{ 6 comments }

Add the August 28 LA Times to the list of newspapers looking askance at Joe Biden and his family’s cozy relationship to judicial-hellhole asbestos attorneys, in this case Madison County’s SimmonsCooper. (Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger, “Business dealings of Biden family could be problematic for him”, Aug. 28). Unfortunately, the article somehow manages to miss the rationale for creating the trust fund, which was the degree to which so much asbestos litigation in the country is abusive.

Update: also, Am Law Daily.

{ 9 comments }

Biden and the trial lawyers

by Ted Frank on August 27, 2008

A USA Today story delves deeply into how Biden’s done the bidding of the litigation lobby special interest group, particularly with respect to the bipartisan asbestos litigation reform bill.

Daniel Fisher usually understands legal issues and has done some good reporting about trial-lawyer abuses, so I was very disappointed in today’s Forbes.com story (which quotes me about Obama and CAFA). Most notably, it’s not true that tort reform is a “catchall phrase for legislative measures designed to make it harder for individuals to sue businesses”–many tort reforms make it easier for individuals with legitimate claims to sue businesses. Tort reforms are simply measures to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the civil justice system; they’re opposed by trial lawyers because they derive billions of dollars of wealth from inaccuracies and inefficiencies in the civil justice system, and supported by businesses and consumers that are the victims of such inaccuracies and inefficiencies.

The article also inaccurately characterizes the Obama-Clinton medical malpractice legislation, and furthers the idea of “Kennedy is a moderate,” blurring the role of the Supreme Court by implicitly endorsing the liberal idea of it as a political superlegislature rather than a judicial body with an obligation to follow the law. The focus on anti-preemption legislation, as opposed to some of the dozens of other pro-trial-lawyer-lobby bills pending in this Congress and likely to be renewed next Congress, is unusual. (Separately, I disagree with Jim Copland; I don’t think McCain would hesitate to veto the giveaways to the trial-lawyer lobby if they’re in single-purpose bills and not attached as hidden amendments to omnibus legislation.)

I’m less surprised than Fisher and Bill Childs that Obama is getting money from defense firms, or, more accurately, attorneys who work at defense firms. The legal establishment is overwhelmingly liberal (hence the 3:1 fundraising advantage Obama has), and many defense attorneys are perfectly happy with a status quo that requires companies to pay them millions of dollars to continue doing business. (Some are too happy, and have vocally supported ABA resolutions that would harm their clients–something their clients should pay closer attention to.)

While plaintiffs’ law firm contributions are often coordinated (sometimes a bit illegally, as when Tab Turner’s firm and Geoffrey Fieger’s firm were caught reimbursing their employees for donating to John Edwards), it’s a mistake to think the same thing happens in the defense bar, where attorneys are donating on an individual basis because they perceive future government administration (or Article III) jobs of a certain political caliber as pay-to-play or because they’re otherwise simply interested in the political process. Kirkland & Ellis may have tobacco and asbestos defense in its portfolio, and many alumni in the Bush administration, but most Kirkland attorneys are doing other things, and a disproportionate number of them at the Chicago-based firm are going to be former classmates of or students of Harvard Law graduate and Chicago Law lecturer Obama, and have the six- and seven-digit incomes to give maximum contributions–and it only takes a few dozen $4600 contributions to make a firm look like a big contributor.  (And, on the other hand, as if to demonstrate the bipartisan nature of most law firms, John McCain turned to a Republican attorney, former Reagan White House Counsel A.B. Culvahouse, at the largely Democratic O’Melveny & Myers to lead his vice presidential search.) During the primaries, the trial lawyers were giving most of their money to Edwards, Clinton, and Biden, but those fundraisers are now doing business with Obama, as the recent press coverage of Fred Baron shows.

But the article is correct that the outlook for federal tort reform is grim, and that reformers are looking at rearguard actions defending against numerous attempts to make the system worse.

{ 1 comment }

I’m quoted by Quin Hillyer in an Examiner story today about the dozens of bills pending in Congress that engage in tort deform–favors for the trial bar. The new Trial Lawyer Earmarks website does a marvelous job documenting most of the bills out there, though one wishes it would provide direct links to THOMAS rather than forcing one to engage in separate searches. (Mislink and misspelling corrected.)

May 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 6, 2008

  • Raelyn Campbell briefly captured national spotlight (“Today” show, MSNBC) with $54 million suit against Best Buy for losing laptop, but it’s now been dismissed [Shop Floor; earlier]
  • Charmed life of Florida litigators Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt continues as Miami judge awards them $218 million for class action lawsuit they lost [Daily Business Report, Krauss @ PoL; earlier here, here, and here]
  • Lerach said kickbacks were “industry practice” and “everybody was paying plaintiffs”. True? Top House GOPer Boehner wants hearings to find out [NAM "Shop Floor", WSJ law blog]
  • It’s Dannimal House! An “office rife with booze, profanity, inappropriate sexual activity, misuse of state vehicles and on-the-job threats involving the Mafia” — must be Ohio AG Marc Dann, of NYT “next Eliot Spitzer” fame [AP/NOLA, Adler @ Volokh, Above the Law, Wood @ PoL; earlier]
  • Sorry, Caplin & Drysdale, but you can’t charge full hourly rates for time spent traveling but not working on that asbestos bankruptcy [NLJ] More: Elefant.
  • Fire employee after rudely asking if she’s had a face-lift? Not unless you’ve got $1.7 million to spare [Chicago Tribune]
  • Daniel Schwartz has more analysis of that Stamford, Ct. disabled-firefighter case (May 1); if you want a fire captain to be able to read quickly at emergency scene, better spell that out explicitly in the job description [Ct Emp Law Blog]
  • As expected, star Milberg expert John Torkelsen pleads guilty to perjury arising from lies he told to conceal his contingent compensation arrangements [NLJ; earlier]
  • Case of deconstructionist prof who plans to sue her Dartmouth students makes the WSJ [Joseph Rago, op-ed page, Mindles H. Dreck @ TigerHawk; earlier]
  • How’d I do, mom? No violation of fair trial for judge’s mother to be one of the jurors [ABA Journal]
  • First sell the company’s stock short, then sue it and watch its share price drop. You mean there’s some ethical problem with that? [three years ago on Overlawyered]

{ 1 comment }