This week, the American Association for Justice (the plaintiffs’ bar), the DRI—The Voice of the Defense Bar, and the American Bar Association, got together to issue a dire warning about the impact of sequestration on our courts. Said the groups in a joint statement:
Severe and indiscriminate federal court budget reductions through sequestration combined with chronically anemic state funding for courts threaten access to justice for every American and put court petitioners, staff and judges in physical jeopardy. … Our organizations representing a concerned legal community, call on policymakers on Capitol Hill and statehouses across the country to provide adequate funding for our federal and state judiciaries. Access to justice is a promise that would be too costly for our country to deny.
Meanwhile, the seemingly oblivious U.S. House Judiciary Committee has decided to do nothing about that, but rather to attack victims who use the courts. What timing, am I right? The first hearing was held yesterday before the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, called “Excessive Litigation's Impact on America's Global Competitiveness.” Witnesses included the last minute addition Rocky Flick, former CEO of Blitz USA, which decided to manufacture its plastic gas cans – the kind you might find in your garage – without 4 cent flame arresters. Not surprisingly, kids have gotten burned and the company is now complaining about lawsuits. Fortunately, professor Neil Vidmar from Duke University School of Law also testified, stating, “Wild claims about the American tort system and its negative effects on our society have consistently not stood up to scrutiny when examined carefully from an empirical perspective.” Thank you.
Thursday, the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet is holding hearings called, “Abusive Patent Litigation: The Impact on American Innovation & Jobs, and Potential Solutions.” Supposedly this is to address “patent trolls” which sue companies over patents. This is not an area of much focus here at ThePopTort, but we do note that the size of personal injury verdicts seems to pale in comparison to the size of patent verdicts these days, which are in the billions and are making companies like Apple even richer.
We also understand that next week, there will be hearings on anti-victim asbestos legislation, on which the committee wasted time last year and seems to be doing again. And last but not least, next Wednesday, the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, is holding hearings called “Examination of Litigation Abuses.” Witnesses for this hearing have not been announced yet, but I would like to offer a few ideas. First, we should change the hearing title to, “Examination of Litigation Hypocrites." Witnesses could include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, which sues the government three times a week on average while trying to strip everyone else of their legal rights. Another should be NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre who, after having made sure that no one can sue the gun industry for gun violence, says he will “fight” any new gun laws “in court.”
Not if they're defunded, he won't.
UPDATE: Looks like the Patent hearing has been postponed. We'll keep you posted on that!