How Edwards Can Talk About Tort "Reform"

Cross-posted from Tort Deform: The Civil Justice Defense Blog

As a former trial lawyer John Edwards can expect to be attacked vigorously by the tort "reform" movement throughout his presidential campaign. During his vice presidential run with John Kerry both candidates shied away from talking about access to justice. In response to a question in one of the 2004 presidential debates about tort "reform" John Kerry said "John Edwards and I support tort `reform.'"

It seems that both candidates (both in fact lawyers) just simply weren't willing to have to go about the task of educating the public about the importance of access to the courts. Doing so would have required taking on the tort "reform" movement's considerable media resources on a hard to understand issue when a lot of other issues were also at stake. After working on this issue as a fellow I can definitely understand their hesitation.

Then again, saying that one supports tort "reform," can be good or bad depending on how you are defining reform.

One legal reform that Edwards could champion is the implementation of the American Bar Association's recent resolution on civil legal counsel:


RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody, as determined by each jurisdiction. (link)

Supporting and attempting to help implement this resolution would fit Edwards further within his campaign's populist narrative that dedicated to helping and empowering the average American get a fair shake.

At the same time readers should be aware that John Edwards has previously said he was proud of the work he did as a trial lawyer.


In his book and in his Newsweek essay, Edwards describes himself as a champion of the "old-fashioned" values of personal responsibility and just deserts. In his view, the doctors and corporations he sued "deserved" to be punished no more and no less than Willie Horton -- the famous parolee used by the Republicans to paint the Democrats as "soft on crime" -- did. - Issues of Civil Justice and Tort Reform: What Role Will They Play in the Democratic Primaries (link)

Edwards has also made an interesting suggestion about holding lawyers and doctors alike accountable for their work when they breach their professional obligations.

Edwards should be proud of this previous legal work.  It would also be great to hear him incorporate the need for access to justice for all Americans into his already highly compelling populist narrative.

We would love to hear more from Edwards on this issue, and we plan to reach out in the future.

Tags: John Edwards, tort deform, tort reform (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

Edwards and Tort "Reform"

I agree that he's uniquely qualified to take on this issue and will certainly have to during his campaign. The myths associated with 'tort reform' is one of those big issues out there that we should be sheding light on and I'm looking forward to seeing Edwards take this one on.

by Quinton 2007-01-05 02:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Edwards and Tort "Reform"

Actually -  I'd disagree somewhat.. Edwards has been through the scrutiny before regarding attorney issues.

some interesting things I learned about attorneys was that for all healthcare costs, 99% of them have nothing to do with lawsuits  so focusing on lawsuits for healthcare is a red herring.

I believe last time Edwards said attorneys should have a board similar to medical boards and that if one attorney has 3 frivolous lawsuits he/she will be disbarred.  Currently, I don't think there is any monitoring/penalties for firvolous lawsuits.

by TarHeel 2007-01-06 03:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Edwards and Tort "Reform"

Aside from the incurred costs which is what serves as the biggest factor to discourage lawyers taking on cases that aren't particularly strong.

by Quinton 2007-01-06 09:43AM | 0 recs
Edwards talked about the need for panels...

...to review civil suits and hold lawyers accountable for filing frivolous litigation. He got out in front of that issue, and I expect that to continue.

by MeanBoneII 2007-01-05 03:02PM | 0 recs
How Edwards Can Talk About Tort "Reform"

It seems to me that the message starts with people and organizations like yours, Cyrus.  I'm sure the candidates really appreciate the good work you do.  The progressive movement can always use more infrastructure in this area.

We can learn from the Republicans.  Their candidates don't have to go around "educating" voters about tort reform, because their well-funded infrastructure has already laid the groundwork and gotten the message out.  They're to a point where their candidates just need to repeat the established buzzwords and the crowd cheers.

We need to get to that point ourselves - on this issue and several others where the Republicans are way ahead of us - but I don't think the candidates can be expected to do the heavy lifting, even gifted speakers like Edwards.  Campaigns just don't allow for that sort of thing.

by Steve M 2007-01-05 07:34PM | 0 recs
Tort Reform

Tort reform is complete BS and should never see the light of day with a Dem Congress.

by Marylander 2007-01-06 06:41PM | 0 recs

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