A few years ago, I sat in on some bi-partisan focus groups run by a well-known polling firm. The topic had to do with people’s views about litigation. One exchange really stuck in my head. The moderator asked the group if they thought limiting people’s ability to sue corporations that harm or cheat them would improve the economy and create jobs. Here was the general reaction: “Of course not. That’s ridiculous.” Data and studies confirm this, of course, like one from the Economic Policy Institute. EPI found that weakening people’s legal rights could actually “slow job growth.” But who needs studies when you have common sense?
I bring this up because over the next couple days, the U.S. House of Representatives is voting on a series of bills, which were just rammed through the House Judiciary Committee without a single hearing. These bills would make it nearly impossible for harmed individuals and small businesses to sue in court. It’s as if politicians think voters sent them to Washington with an urgent mandate to rig the courts against everyday people. Can’t imagine what they’re thinking.
We don’t know the type or scope of “PR spin” that will be used by proponents of these measures. “Spin” is really all you have when pushing unpopular bills that prevent harmed and defrauded people from getting into court, concocted in back rooms by lobbyists for giant corporations. Indeed, we wouldn’t be surprised to suddenly see the irresistible “J” word make an appearance. Maybe they’ll try to say that small business JOB-creators are clamoring for such legislation, which also happens to shut them out of court (like when big corporations steal their money). So let’s just shut down any spin right now.