Jewish World Review July 30, 2002 / 21 Menachem-Av, 5762
So it was no big shocker that this modest step toward tort reform was greeted with wails and yelps from former trial lawyer and future presidential candidate Senator John Edwards. He countered that such limits showed no feeling for "victims." Although the White House denied presidential politics were at play in its choice of Edwards' home state for the President's speech, the move was brilliant.
Republicans have the facts on their side and should be relentless in deploying them. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Association of American Trial Lawyers gave $1.8 million to candidates so far during the 2002 -- 87 percent to Democrats. During 2000, lawyers and law firms distributed a staggering $112 million -- 69 percent to Democrats. That's almost double the $62 million that BOTP ("Big Oil, Tobacco and Pharmaceutical") gave in 2000 -- 75 percent to the GOP.
The legal lobby has protected its turf beautifully over the years as tort reform has drifted on and off the political stage. But the current public anger at rapacious CEOs and shifty accountants shows that Americans are hungry for justice. While plaintiffs' attorneys prattle on about protecting the interests of the little guy, their clients in class-action suits often get crumbs while the law-firm collects its 33 to 50 percent.
The most recent outrage is the New York suit filed last week against the fast food industry, alleging a failure to warn about the products "addictive" and "harmful" qualities. (The lead plaintiff claims that even after heart surgery, he found himself eating McDonald's or Burger King four or five times a week.) These suits are following the lead of tobacco litigation, which have made hundreds of millions for trial lawyers coast to coast.
The public needs a continuing education on the skyrocketing legal costs
that amount to about a 3 percent hidden tax on our wages. Limiting
malpractice awards is a good start and should be followed by an aggressive
push for "loser pays" initiatives, and caps on lawyers' fees. President
Bush stressed these issues on the campaign trail, but with the war and
economic mess on his plate, the initiatives were neglected -- until last
week. Any time Republicans can force Democrats to defend lawyers, the
Republicans will win. Speaking as a recovering attorney, I'd rather be on
the side of Big Business over Big Lawyers any day.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
07/23/02: No time for vacation