Keeping Ground Zero in Perspective: The Problem With Heroes

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

Today, the NY Times has a story reporting that the recently deceased symbolic representative for sick Ground Zero Workers and first responders did not "rush" to Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 attacks as reported by some news sources. Instead, he served near Ground Zero beginning a little over three months after the attacks. When asked why they did not correct what became the public story the widow said she was too busy grieving as her husband came near to and eventually succumbed to death. The son, who went to the State of the Union with Senator Clinton as her guest to help bring attention to the issue, said that he did not know the exact details of his father's work at Ground Zero and did not know the representation in the press to be different than the reality.

The discrepancy between the symbolic emblematic hero story, and the reality of the man, gives fodder to what has been a surprisingly and jarringly un-empathetic opposition by those opposed to medical care and financial support for Ground Zero workers.

Sadly, heroes are rarely "perfect" human beings under the microscope. For all we know, Ceasar Borja could have been a horrible person, a bad husband, or even a bad father.

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Juries as Democratic Participation

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

Juries, especially civil juries, instill some of the habits of the judicial mind into every citizen, and just those habits are the very best way of preparing people to be free.... They make all men feel that they have duties toward society and that they take a share in its government. By making men pay more attention to things other than their own affairs, they combat that individual selfishness which is like rust in society.... [The jury] should be regarded as a free school which is always open and in which each juror learns his rights, . . and is given practical lessons in the law. .. I think that the main reason for the ... political good sense of the Americans is their long experience with juries in civil cases." - Alexis de Tocqueville

Tort "reformers" would have you believe that America is plagued by runaway juries that result in "jackpot" justice based on the jurors' random and emotional whims about a particular case.

This framing of juries is inaccurate. Juries, although imperfect, do a reasonably good job of evaluating civil claims.

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The President & Ground Zero Workers

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

After he was invited to attend the State of the Union Address by Senator Clinton, after his father died hours before the State of the Union, and after a direct public plea to the President in the wake of his father's death, only then did President Bush finally agreed to meet with Ceasar Borja Jr. last week. Similarly, as a result of Borjas's lobbying and publicity, the President also pledged $25 million in additional funding to support monitoring and treatment for Ground Zero workers and responders.

However, this amount of support will only keep the medical program going until the end of 2007, and is only ten percent of the 250 million amount Mt. Sinai, the main provide of these health services, says is needs each year to keep the program going.

And yet, while the President's attempt to ignore the suffering of Ground Zero workers that his administration is to a large degree responsible for (by way of the false statements about safety from contaminants from the EPA in the days after the 9/11 attacks) seems cold and inhumane, I'm beginning to wonder if he really just doesn't understand what is going on.

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Why the Challenges Faced by Ground Zero Workers Affect Us All: An Overview

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

For those who have been with us since the beginning of Tort Deform, you have heard us talk about how the challenges faced by the Ground Zero workers are in many ways emblematic of all those seeking justice in our nations' courts and administrative bureaucracies. Hopefully, those readers who have recently joined have also been exposed to this narrative.

The issue of funding for sick Ground Zero Workers has reached a high point in publicity thanks to the efforts of Ceasar Borja Jr. Ceasar's father was a NYC police officer for 20 years who died of a Ground Zero related illness hours before his son attended the State of the Union address in order to bring increased attention to the suffering and neglect of Ground Zero workers and responders.

In large part because of Borja's efforts, Bush recently agreed to fund $25 million dollars in additional funding for the treatment of Ground Zero workers and first responders. However, this funding is only enough to extend treatment and screening until the end of the year.

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A Supreme Court Justice Begins the Tort "Reform" Movement: The Powell Manifesto

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

DATE: August 23, 1971

"TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration."

More after the jump...

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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.

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Washington Mutual Mandatory Arbitration Clause - WAMU Falls Short

Yesterday I opened an account with Washington Mutual. I've always sort of hated Bank of America. When I've had questions about my account or an online banking issue they have not been super helpful, and they charge me for my checking account. Moreover, for a long time (although no longer) Washington Mutual gave free access to their atms, and so I just grew to like them (as was likely the intended purpose).

Bank of America also employs a practice that seems geared towards increasing overdraft fees.

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Shutting the Doors on Our 9/11 Heroes

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

Today's NY Times reports that federal officials believe the money contributed by the federal government to help treat sick Ground Zero first responders and workers will run out by the summer or possibly the spring. Tort Deform has had a great deal written on the many inadequacies of the governmental and business responses to the environmental effects of the 9/11 attack and their connection to our civil justice system. In doing so, we have explained the plight of workers attempting to get compensation for their medical expenses, as well as for financial support them when their 9/11 related injuries keep them from working.

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Podcast Series: Arbitrating Away The American Dream (Vol 1)

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

Arbitrating Away the American Dream (Vol 1): One Conservative Grandmother's Battle With Mandatory Arbitration

Mandatory arbitration? What does that even mean? How can it affect me?

Right now, if you have a new home, new car, car lease, credit card, bank account, cell phone, storage room, utilities, or an exterminator you more than likely have one. Since you probably don't know what it is, and since you probably have one, it might make sense to learn more about the devastating effect that this type of agreement can have on your life.

Jordan Fogal, an award winning author whose personal struggle with her builder and her mandatory arbitration contract was featured in a Mother Jones Magazine article, has tirelessly struggled to bring attention to the public about the dangers of mandatory arbitration agreements.

Ms. Fogal was working on her new book of memoirs until it was interrupted by the deterioration of her brand new home. She then began her fight against the mandatory arbitration agreements that protect bad builders and create devastating personal tragedies for homebuyers.

For the past three years her efforts have been to inform the public about bad builders and the injustices rampant in Houston. After learning that this problem was not just happening in Houston, Jordan expanded her efforts to engage the entire nation.

Listen in to this first podcast as Jordan tells her cautionary tale about the devastating impact that a mandatory arbitration agreement had on her life, her changed view of America, and the accessibility of the American dream for us all.

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Drum Major Institute vs. American Enterprise Institute: Tort "Reform" Hypocrites

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

hyp‧o‧crite  [hip-uh-krit]

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, esp. one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements

Awhile back in response to my op-ed "Sue as I Say, Not as I Sue" criticizing Stephen Roberts (the head of the W. Virginia Chamber of Commerce) in the West Virginia Record for filing a lawsuit that the reforms he advocates for would have limited,

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