John Edwards may not be the only plaintiff’s attorney in the White House race:
Mr. Thompson [Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., much buzzed about as a late-entering Republican possibility] has also been criticized for failing to back some comprehensive tort-reform bills because of his background as a trial lawyer. Here he insists his stance was based on grounds of federalism. “I’m consistent. I address Federalist Society meetings,” he says, noting that more issues should be left to the states. For example, he cast the lonely “nay” in 99-1 votes against a national 0.8% blood alcohol level for drivers, a federal law banning guns in schools, and a measure limiting the tort liability of Good Samaritans. “Washington overreaches, and by doing so ends up not doing well the basics people really care about.” Think Katrina and Walter Reed.
(John Fund, “Lights, Camera . . . Candidacy?”, OpinionJournal.com/WSJ, Mar. 17).
On Sen. Thompson’s behalf, it can be said that he did co-sponsor the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was enacted into law after he left the Senate. Thus he presumably recognizes that in some situations, federal action can be necessary and proper to prevent a few state courts from imposing their views on the unwilling citizens of distant states. One hopes Thompson also goes so far as to realize that federal curbs on state-court litigation in those circumstances do not necessarily infringe on proper precepts of federalism and decentralization, but in fact can work in defense of them, by protecting the right to self-government of sister states and their citizens. The question is whether he has gone on to consider that quite a few other federal interventions into state-court litigation, in such areas as class actions, product liability and punitive damages, can be defended on very similar grounds (namely, that they are needed to restrain state courts from exporting their legal doctrines to other states) and thus are entirely consistent with “good federalist” precepts.