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    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Tort Reform III: On the national level, the trial lawyers are sounding the death knell for tort reform. They sing themselves victorious:

    The day after the Nov. 7 election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced a poll showing that Americans want the new Congress to continue to reform the lawsuit system. And the Association of Trial Lawyers of America announced that candidates who supported the civil justice system won, and the "vast majority" of those who attacked the system and trial lawyers lost.

    "Voters across the political spectrum expect their elected officials to curb frivolous lawsuits and abusive practices like fraudulent medical screenings and excessive discovery," said Lisa Rickard, president of the chamber's Institute for Legal Reform. "We will urge the newly elected Congress to respond to their concerns."

    But ATLA CEO Jon Haber, noting campaign attacks on trial lawyer-candidates accusing them of lawsuit abuse, said: "This election destroyed a popular Karl Rove myth. The truth is that trial attorneys are winning, attacks on trial attorneys are backfiring and opponents of the civil justice system are losing."

    Of the two organizations, guess which one will have to knock harder on the doors of a Democratic-controlled Congress?

    So-called tort reform is just one of a number of legal agenda issues likely to be placed on the back burner or to undergo redefinition when the new Congress begins in January.

    The House Judiciary Committee under Republican control has been a reliable source of tort system-related legislation, including medical malpractice liability limits, new sanctions on attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits, proposed constitutional amendments on a variety of contentious social issues, and efforts to limit what some of its members believe are unaccountable and activist federal judges. A good number of those proposals have been adopted by the Republican House only to be blocked in the narrowly divided, yet Republican-controlled Senate.

    In January, the committee chair is expected to pass from Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and many of those Republican issues are unlikely to move out of the committee again. "One of the changes is not so much what will come up, but what won't come up," said a Democratic staffer about the next Congress.

    Don't you just love that phrase "so-called tort reform." Can you imagine if any other professional body referred to efforts to police it as "so called reform"? Like "so called medical errors," or "so called political corruption." Oh, wait. That last one might actually be an improvement on at least one politician's phrase.

    posted by Sydney on 11/16/2006 06:15:00 AM 0 comments


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