Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Humanizing Tort Reform: The Astroturf Edition

A few months back, I had a series of posts about humanizing the teaching of Torts, in part by emphasizing to students that the cases involve actual people.  In the comments, Ted Frank suggested that the negative impact of tort litigation on society, too, should be made clear - humanizing tort reform, if you will.  (See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for I believe the whole series.)

The American Justice Partnership, a group created by the National Association of Manufacturers (in conjunction with "the American Tort Reform Association, Washington Legal Foundation, Manhattan Institute, Center for Individual Freedom, American Legislative Exchange Council, Council of State Chambers, and a number of state manufacturing associations and chambers of commerce") apparently has the same idea. 

The front page of their news site seeks "Lawsuit Abuse Victim[s]" who can share their stories:

For more than 40 years, plaintiff lawyers have spent tens of millions of dollars to convince the American public that they are using the civil justice system to protect average citizens.  In fact, many plaintiff lawyers have manipulated the courts so that they stand to gain millions -- and even billions -- in legal fees at the expense of their clients, consumers, patients, employees, average investors, small business owners, corporations assaulted by frivolous and unwarranted lawsuits, and our state and national economies.

The American Justice Partnership is collecting examples of lawsuit abuse so that we and our partner organizations can bring more examples to the attention of government and the media about ways that consumers and companies are being victimized.

The survey is administered (based on the contact e-mail address) by Emerging Trends Consulting Group, which "helps chief legal officers and law department management teams to develop and implement transformative strategies to generate better legal, financial and reputation outcomes."  Their client list includes "Sears, DuPont, Baxter International, Viacom, Prudential Financial, Pitney Bowes, McDonald’s Corporation, Manulife Financial, The New York Stock Exchange, International Paper, The Hartford, Lucent Technologies, Tyco International, Shell Oil Company, Schering-Plough, DaimlerChrysler and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., among others."  The group lists a wide range of "legal reform partners and resources."  AJP's domain names are registered to Agincourt Corporation, an  entity related to Emerging Trends.  (Note that I don't think there's anything particularly nefarious here -- I just found the links interesting and thought I'd share.)

NAM's blog linked to the project this morning and last fall, though without noting that it is a project of NAM's either time.

Update: In the comments, Ted points out, correctly, that AJP is pretty up-front about what it is -- i.e., not a grassroots group.  The "Astroturf" in the title is a reference to the NAM blog post which, in my view, should have noted that AJP is an affiliate of NAM itself.  It's not hard to find that out, but it's even easier to say up-front.  I should have been clearer about the reference, in any event.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2006/05/humanizing_tort.html

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Comments

"Astroturf" is a term for an organization faking grass-roots status. Seems to me that AJP is pretty upfront that it's not a grass-roots organization. So where does "astroturf" come in here?

Posted by: Ted | May 2, 2006 2:51:03 PM

The AJP is relatively up-front.

NAM (and its blog) is not, in my view, so up-front in linking to it without identifying it as a NAM project, and including direct links to submitting "lawsuit abuse" reports (administered via surveymonkey.com) which give no indication of its funding, etc. AJP's press releases identify it as an "affiliate" of NAM; why doesn't NAM say so on its blog (perhaps where it currently says "Anybody here opposed to justice...?" in parentheses)?

That said, I gave it a title based on the NAM part and that ended up being a smaller part of the post than I expected...

Posted by: Bill Childs | May 2, 2006 3:00:25 PM

Due to tort reform changes will occur in the way defendants are held liable in multiparty suits. Likewise, plaintiff lawyers will not be able to easily shop" for friendly courts in which to file suits. And frivolous lawsuits will be harder to file.

These reforms await some final minor work, but they are essentially headed to Gov. Bush for his ready signature.Read More At this site DICK WEEKLEY

Posted by: Shawn Henry | Jul 4, 2006 2:10:32 AM

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