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Obama Expected To Address Tort Reform Early

Here is the latest news release from the American Association for Justice. It involves the question of tort reform under the new Barack Obama administration:

CQ Weekly (11/10, Zeller) reports, “One early policy battle in the Obama years will probably be the question of ‘tort reform.'” On one side, “plaintiffs’ attorneys are keen to reverse Bush-era restrictions on tort litigation, while business groups fear that a Democrat-dominated federal government will do the bidding of the Democrats’ influential trial-lawyer base of donors and expand plaintiffs’ rights in tort cases.” However, “Barack Obama may well disappoint both advocacy factions.” Obama has “touted his own 2005 Senate vote for a law shifting class action lawsuits to federal courts — a major business community priority.” Linda Lipsen, senior vice president for public affairs of the American Association for Justice, said “Obama’s 2005 vote is ‘a concern,'” but added, “We are comfortable with our new president’s priorities.” CQ adds that the AAJ “plans to press for a list of litigation-related wishes in the next Congress, including broad rights to sue for injuries related to faulty medical devices and legislation barring companies from requiring their customers to go to arbitration rather than court.” Meanwhile, Lisa Rickard, the president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, has “warned Democrats the day after the election that their overwhelming victory at the polls does not mean voters ‘want Congress to give the plaintiffs’ bar more ways to sue.'”

The National Law Journal (11/10, Coyle) reports, “Business and trial lawyers are expected to go head-to-head again over tort-related issues, but congressional experts now give the trial lawyers significantly more heft in the new Congress.” David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, said that “bills to eliminate predispute binding arbitration have been gaining momentum.” Another “big agenda item” are “reversals of the Bush administration’s expansion of federal pre-emption of state tort lawsuits in a number of regulated areas.” A “workplace measures to be pushed” is “removing the current $300,000 cap on compensatory damages and punitive damages for violations of Title VII and the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

Obama has opportunity to shape federal judiciary. The AP (11/8, Sherman) reported, “President-elect Obama will enter office with an immediate opportunity to begin shaping the federal courts by filling four dozen openings on trial and appeals courts.” With a substantial Democratic majority in Congress, “Obama is not likely to have trouble getting his appointees confirmed.” Currently “14 seats are open on appeals courts or will be by the end of January,” and “Democratic appointees are a majority on only one of the 13 federal appeals courts, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.” Now, “Obama can change the balance of power quickly” on the traditionally conservative 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as “it has four openings and is divided now between five judges appointed by Republican presidents and five named by Democrat Bill Clinton.”

Obama must choose which parts of Bush’s legal legacy to keep, reject. McClatchy (11/8, Taylor, Doyle) reported, “When Barack Obama becomes president in January, he will confront the controversial legal legacy of the Bush administration” and he “must decide what he’ll undo and what he’ll embrace.” While “civil libertarians and other critics of the Bush administration may feel betrayed if Obama doesn’t move aggressively to reverse legal policies that they believe have violated the Constitution and international law,” at the same time, “Obama risks alienating some conservative Americans and some…military and intelligence officials if he seeks to hold officials accountable for those expansive policies.” Possible policy changes include revoking “the immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with secret eavesdropping.”

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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