Posts Tagged ‘Joe Biden’

Assignment Desk: Edwards, Obama, and lobbyist money

At YearlyKos, John Edwards and Barack Obama sought to distinguish themselves from Hillary Clinton by saying they didn’t take money from registered lobbyists, and Clinton was booed for defending herself. (Also: Franke-Ruta.)

I found this curious: after all, Obama and Edwards showed up at the national convention of the lobbying group for the trial lawyers, the former Association of Trial Lawyers of America (who now call themselves the American Association of Justice). There, they gave speeches (as did Clinton, Biden, and Richardson). A look at the largest donors for Obama and especially Edwards shows a disproportionate number of active members of that lobbying group. Indeed, John Edwards’s finance chairman is Fred Baron, the former president of ATLA. If Obama and Edwards want voters to believe that Clinton is influenced by lobbyist money, what should we think about these two candidates’ debts to trial lawyers? Are we to believe that the critical difference is the lobbyist registration papers, at which point money becomes tainted and dirty? Are any reporters going to ask that hard question, or will they let the two candidates demagogue from the high ground as they take millions from the most pernicious special interest group in America?

July 31 roundup

  • Can’t possibly be true: Tampa man sentenced to 25 years for possession of pills for which he had a legal prescription [Balko, Hit and Run]

  • Plaintiff’s lawyers “viewed [Sen. Fred Thompson] as someone we could work with” and gave to his campaigns, but they can’t be pleased by his kind words for Texas malpractice-suit curbs [Washington Post, Lattman; disclaimer]

  • Pace U. student arrested on hate crime charges after desecrating Koran stolen from college [Newsday; Volokh, more; Hitchens]

  • Little-used Rhode Island law allows married person to act as spouse’s attorney, which certainly has brought complications to the divorce of Daniel and Denise Chaput from Pawtucket [Providence Journal]

  • Lott v. Levitt defamation suit kinda-sorta settles, it looks like [Adler @ Volokh]

  • Trial lawyer Mikal Watts not bowling ’em over yet in expected challenge to Texas Sen. Cornyn [Rothenberg, Roll Call, sub-only via Lopez @ NRO]

  • Frankly collusive: after Minnesota car crash, parents arrange to have their injured son sue them for negligence [OnPoint News]

  • Canadian bar hot and bothered over Maclean’s cover story slamming profession’s ethics [Macleans blog]

  • Five Democratic candidates (Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Richardson) auditioned at the trial lawyers’ convention earlier this month in Chicago [NYSun]

  • Donald Boudreaux’s theory as to why Prohibition ended when it did [Pittsburgh Trib-Rev via Murray @ NRO]

  • Speaker of Alaska house discusses recent strengthening of that state’s longstanding loser-pays law [new at Point of Law]

Something is Rotten in the State of Delaware

Why have some of the trial bar’s heaviest hitters in asbestos litigation infested Delaware – firms like including Simmons Cooper, Baron and Budd, and the Lanier law firm?

Why did the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) place Delaware – which has always had a business-friendly reputation – on its “watch list” in the 2005 and 2006 editions of its “Judicial Hellholes” report?

One thing’s for sure – the trial bar’s legal talent isn’t circling Delaware because they love the state’s beautiful beaches.

The problem arises from a series of Delaware Supreme Court decisions that gave trial lawyers the green light to file hundreds of toxic tort cases. Out-of-state law firms are now busy turning Delaware into Ground Zero of the asbestos-litigation morass, but the overwhelming majority of plaintiffs have no connection to Delaware whatsoever. Approximately 80% of the plaintiffs in asbestos cases have never set foot in Delaware.

The numbers are startling. According to ATRA, in the year following May 2004 only 61 asbestos claims were filed in Delaware. But over the next 16 months, 272 asbestos cases were filed – a 345% increase. That number has now increased to 525 asbestos cases filed since May 1, 2005.

Due to this flood of lawsuits, the Delaware Superior Court has scheduled trials in as many as 85 cases to begin on a single day. The Court has also ordered defendants to try multiple cases in multiple courtrooms at the same time.

There are other warning signs. Delaware allows joint and several liability and has no limits on punitive damages. And newly-elected Attorney General Beau Biden is a former plaintiff’s asbestos lawyer.

Other states – such as Texas and Mississippi – have countered the flood of out-of-state lawsuits by enacting venue reforms – a measure that could help prevent the trial bar from turning Delaware into a “judicial hellhole.”

Steve Hantler

“Obama Makes Inroads Into Edwards’ Trial Lawyer Base”

For better or worse, John Edwards isn’t as special this time around:

For years Edwards has relied on the support of his fellow trial lawyers’ deep pockets to help get him elected — first to the Senate and then three years ago, when he made a run at the White House and then became running mate to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who won the Democratic nomination. But as Edwards mounts his second presidential bid, he has struggled to attract plaintiffs lawyers beyond his stable of longtime donors, just as other Democratic candidates, such as Sens. Hillary Clinton from New York, Barack Obama from Illinois, and Joseph Biden Jr. from Delaware, have been actively wooing the plaintiffs bar. …

Many of the trial lawyers who supported the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004 have chosen to throw their lot in with Obama or are keeping their options open by donating to multiple candidates. The fracturing of the trial-lawyer constituency could have dramatic effects on the total dollars Edwards will be able to raise. …

Also cited as hurting Edwards with some past givers: the steps he took to moderate his image on litigation reform during the 2004 campaign, including his endorsement of pre-screening of merit in medical malpractice cases. Even Sen. Biden is making inroads:

Biden has long been seen as a supporter of the trial lawyer community on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has opposed legal-liability proposals and bills that would limit claims against health-care providers. No candidate is more visibly tied to the trial bar than Edwards. But Clinton and Biden, who also headlined a national trial lawyer convention in Miami Beach in February, have both said they’re opposed to caps on punitive damage awards.

Despite Obama’s silence on the issues trial lawyers care about, those who support him say they are confident he will back trial lawyers when the time comes.

(Anna Palmer, Legal Times, Apr. 9).

“Lawyers Look Beyond Edwards”

In the last presidential election, John Edwards had the powerful support and deep pockets of the nation’s trial lawyers behind him. But when the lawyers gather for their winter conference today in Miami Beach, it will be Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) delivering the meeting’s keynote speech.

The Washington Post notes that trial lawyers are willing to shell out for Biden because of his efforts blocking tort reform. But Edwards is fighting back:

Four years ago, [Fred] Baron shuttled Edwards around the country on his private jet to introduce him to other lawyers. Now, Baron is working to reinforce Edwards’s standing with some of his backers from the last campaign.

(Matthew Mosk, WaPo, Feb. 10).

What You’ve Been Missing

Here is a summary of the posts from my own blog, A Stitch in Haste, that I did not cross-post here at Overlawyered

Peace Corps Quotes of the Day
–Serving in the Peace Corps is an entirely selfish endeavor.

George Allen’s “My-Ca-Ca” Apology
–Allen is under the false impression that he is running for President in 2008.

“Afghan” — It’s Not Just Rugs and Dogs Anymore
–Hey U.S. Government, how that’s War on Drugs going?

NYC-TV = W-T-F-?
–Why does the City of New York own a commercial television station?

Shall We See a “Defense of Solar System Act”?
–Damn activist astronomers legislating from the telescope!

The Road to Bigotry is Paved With…
–Thomas Sowell gets pulled over for speeding down the Highway to Hell.

Terrorists, Wal-Mart, Whatever…
–Biden is under the false impression that he is running for President in 2008.

Town “Drug” Into Football “Deer Decoy” Scandal
–No wonder these kids think theft and reckless endangerment are no big deal.

Feel free to stop on by!

The Times’s errors on malpractice, cont’d

I’ve just posted at Point of Law the second and I assume final installment of my long critique of Tuesday’s New York Times article on medical malpractice insurance. The Times coverage contended — in assertions picked up and repeated by many a credulous blogger — that the premium levels charged to doctors bear no relationship to payouts or to legal limits on damage recoveries. Part I of the critique, again, is here.

While you’re at it, you really should be reading Point of Law every day if you have any interest in the more serious side of litigation and its reform, or just want to follow Ted’s or my writing (we both post regularly there). Among the topics you would have learned about recently: the difference, among civil litigators, between “chicken catchers and chicken pluckers“; Colorado lawmakers may restore to homeowners the right not to be sued over “open and obvious dangers” on their property; FDA panel recommends letting Vioxx back on market; a new study of class actions by Yale’s George Priest; medical malpractice law in the U.K.; Sen. Biden praises “bottom-feeders”; silicosis diagnosis scandal; a new legal ethics blog; tons more stuff on the Class Action Fairness Act, including this, this and this; problems with that much-ballyhooed report on medical costs supposedly causing half of consumer bankruptcies; and the Wall Street Journal on loser-pays.

Yet another R (Trial Lawyers)?

Housing Secretary Mel Martinez recently quit to run for a Florida Senate seat, but if elected he might not compile the kind of legislative record expected of Florida Republicans. “Martinez was president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers in the late 1980s and was registered to lobby for the group in Tallahassee. It was a time when that powerful interest group had just defeated the medical lobby in a costly and high-profile initiative campaign aimed at capping fees in personal injury cases, known as Amendment 10. … In addition, Martinez has personally donated money to a variety of Democratic candidates over the years, including Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and former Florida insurance commissioner Bill Gunter.” Resistance to Martinez in the GOP primary is likely to be spirited, especially since one of his leading rivals, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, is already raising the trial lawyer connection as an issue. (Bill Adair and Steve Bousquet, “Martinez quits Cabinet, is poised for Senate run”, St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 10; Steve Bousquet, “Storm brews over GOP Senate primary”, Dec. 15). Update Sept. 3: Martinez wins primary.