Skip to comments.Thompson, Torts, and True Conservatism
Posted on 06/16/2007 11:27:22 PM PDT by Politicalmom
Fred Thompson has not officially entered the race for President of the United States, yet already he is being assailed by Republican bluebloods who want preferential treatment in America's civil justice system. Thompson's crime? He was once a (gasp!) trial lawyer who supports equal justice for all.
The "bluebloods" are Republican business elites who invest in candidates as a cost of doing business, expecting to get a return on their investment if they pick winning candidates. Usually that "return" comes in the form of tax breaks, financial subsidies, or limited accountability for wrong doing. Bluebloods advocate imposing "caps" or artificial limits on the amounts that victims can recover for damages suffered at the hands of wrongdoers who engage in negligent or reckless conduct. While there is no way to limit the extent of the harm that a wrongdoer may inflict, bluebloods want to limit the amount wrongdoers would be required to pay for the damage they cause. They prefer "caps" rather than being required to pay awards commensurate with the damages actually suffered. And, rather than letting individual states address these issues within their own borders, they want the federal government to impose a "one-size fits all" approach to dealing with such issues. In other words, they want federal bureaucrats in Washington, acting at the behest of special interest lobbyists, to decide the upper limits of what innocent victims can recover without regard to the evidence in any particular case and regardless of what a local jury thinks is just and fair under the circumstances. Bluebloods use the euphemism tort "reform" to conceal the true nature of their agenda. A more accurate description of what they are seeking is tort "deform."
The term "tort" means a private or civil wrong, with the added implication that the wrongdoer is required to compensate an innocent party for damages suffered as a result of the wrongdoing. Derived from the medieval Latin word tortum ("wrong"), the root of the word goes back to the ancient Latin verb torquere, which means to twist (compare our modern use of the word "torque"). At its root, therefore, the word "tort" denotes something that is twisted, and needs to be put straight. Bluebloods maintain that conservatives should support their efforts to twist the civil justice system in their favor. In truth, their proposals represent little more than affirmative action programs for wrongdoers.
Historically, tort laws have been matters for decision by the states. Not all states deal with such matters in the same way, and problems that exist in some states may not be present in others. What is a problem in New York may not be a problem in New Mexico, and the approaches to problem solving may be different in Tallahassee than in Topeka.
Conservatives have traditionally respected the rights of the states to identify and address their own problems. They have typically opposed one-size fits all solutions dictated by Congress, believing that people who have their feet on the ground in their communities are in a better position to deal with their problems than bureaucrats who are far from the scene in Washington, DC. Nevertheless, bluebloods, who have historically objected to the federal regulation of their businesses, now want to impose draconian federal requirements on the victims of their wrongdoing. Such attempts should be eschewed by conservatives who believe in the principles of "federalism" and "states rights".
True conservatives understand that accountability and responsibility run hand in hand. Human nature is such that if wrongdoers are not held fully accountable for their wrongful acts, their wrongdoing will increase. As Ronald Reagan said, "If you subsidize something you get more of it"; nevertheless, subsidized wrongdoing is exactly what Republican bluebloods seek. While limitations on liability will likely increase the profitability of businesses engaging in wrongful conduct, such increases will come at the expense of those who are injured by such conduct.
Conservatives should not embrace an agenda that relieves wrongdoers of the consequences of their wrongdoing. Affirmative action for wrongdoers can hardly be described as a conservative approach to problem solving. Furthermore, Americans have historically rejected the idea of a "privileged class" that is allowed to operate under a different set of rules from everyone else. "Equality under the law" is a proud American tradition. Most Americans understand that when they act irresponsibly and put fellow citizens in harm's way, they will be held accountable for their conduct. There should be no exceptions for the rich and powerful. Rich or poor, big or smallaccountability for the consequences of one's actions should be the norm for all members of a just society.
Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC and a nationally recognized trial lawyer who represented Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case.
I do believe those to means of discouragement are needed to put a damper on the litigious nature of our current society. I do not wish to give wrongdoers a pass, however the defendent is not always the one at fault and thus the plaintiff (and the plaintiff's bar) should have reason to be very careful about the cases they push forward.
You have hit the nail on the head here.
Please provide a source.
I searched the 2004 Republican platform and found no such statement.
Maybe I missed it.
Regardless, believing that tort reform is a states’ issue is a
firmly conservative stance.
Reforming the Litigation System
Americas litigation system is broken. Junk and frivolous lawsuits are driving up the cost of doing business in America by forcing companies to pay excessive legal expenses to fight off or settle often baseless lawsuits. Those costs are being paid by small business owners, manufacturers, their employees, and consumers. A typical small business with $10 million in annual revenue pays about $150,000 a year in tort liability costs. That is money that could be used to invest and hire new employees. Inefficiency and waste in the legal system is costing the average American family of four $1,800 every year, equivalent to an extra 3 percent tax on wages. And the bulk of jury awards to plaintiffs dont even go to the people who deserve it. Injured persons on average collect less than 50 cents of every dollar that the legal system costs. Trial lawyers get rich from the misfortune of others. If small business is Americas economic engine, trial lawyers are the brakes: They cost hundreds of thousands of good jobs, drive honest employers out of business, deprive women of critical medical care then skip out with fat wallets and nary a thought for the economic havoc and human misery they leave in their wake. We praise President Bush and Republicans in Congress for their efforts to reform the legal system by passing meaningful class action reform, asbestos reform, and medical liability reform. And we call to account Senate Democrats and the powerful trial lawyer lobby, who have shown no shame in utilizing obstructionist tactics to thwart the efforts of majorities in Congress to provide meaningful relief to all Americans. The Republican Party reaffirms its support for meaningful reform of the legal system, and will continue its fight to guarantee the rights of all plaintiffs to swift and speedy justice.
Thanks. That wasn’t in either of the two platforms I looked at. I guess they edited a lot out.
Thanks for that post.
Nice to see so many educated and well armed Freepers !!
I was especially fond of the comment that someone made during the “hillary-care” days when she had a team of lawyers working on a government health care plan.
“I’ll accept lawyers’ ideas about health care if we let the doctors develop a plan for tort reform.”
Honestly, I’m very much against Fred on that issue. I think saying it’s a states rights issue is a cop out.
The Romney quote on it is dead on. Fred needs to get his mind right on this issue. I’ve heard rumblings that he is moving his position more towards a federal solution, but nothing definitive.
It’s hard to argue with Fred’s reasoning in this piece...
We praise President Bush and Republicans in Congress for their efforts to reform the legal system by passing meaningful class action reform, asbestos reform, and medical liability reform. And we call to account Senate Democrats and the powerful trial lawyer lobby, who have shown no shame in utilizing obstructionist tactics to thwart the efforts of majorities in Congress to provide meaningful relief to all Americans. The Republican Party reaffirms its support for meaningful reform.....