The Center for Justice & Democracy was founded by consumer advocates in March 1998. Originally known as Citizens for Corporate Accountability and Individual Rights (CCAIR), the organization was formed with seed money from filmmaker Michael Moore and received a significant grant from the Stern Family Fund as a recipient of the Public Interest Pioneer award. An independent office for CJ&D was established in New York in 1999.
Over the past two decades, CJ&D has grown into an organization of talented staff working around-the-clock to protect the civil justice system. CJ&D has released hundreds of studies, White Papers and fact sheets on civil justice issues, presented testimony before Congress and state legislatures, and helped organize countless press events advocating the rights of consumers and patients.
In 2011, CJ&D entered into an exciting partnership with New York Law School, and became known as the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School. One notable aspect of the partnership is CJ&D's clinical course, Civil Justice and National Advocacy. Students work on various projects, including researching and analyzing cutting-edge civil justice topics, preparing advocacy papers for CJ&D and the consumer rights community, and preparing policy papers for Congressional presentations.
Through groundbreaking research and legal analysis, grassroots mobilization and effective advocacy, CJ&D is fighting to protect the civil justice system.
In 2003, Congress was heavily pressured by some political forces, including President George W. Bush, to enact federal medical malpractice litigation limits. In response, CJ&D launched the “Medical Rights Bus Tour 2003,” a grassroots education and advocacy bus tour that traveled around the country to raise awareness about the dangers of such legislation for injured patients. The bus tour’s purpose was to educate opinion leaders, the media and lawmakers about why limiting legal rights is terrible public policy, will do nothing to help doctors’ insurance problems and will hurt innocent people. In addition, CJ&D organized numerous victim/consumer news events in DC, and on at least four separate occasions between 2003 and 2006, CJ&D brought victims and families to Washington, D.C. for media events and testimony before Congress. In 2009, CJ&D arranged the first ever medical malpractice victim meeting with the White House and provided many stories for Senate floor speeches. Additionally, CJ&D took a leadership role among public interest groups, moderating Congressional staff briefings at the Senate’s request and coordinating experts for a Congressional Budget Office meeting, also at the Senate’s request. Since 2002, CJ&D has testified six times before Congress on medical malpractice issues. The U.S. Senate has considered medical malpractice limits at least five times during these years and, each time, rejected them decidedly on cloture votes.
When GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in 2009, both companies sought immunity from past and future product liability suits involving the tens of millions of GM and Chrysler cars on the road. Victims, lawyers, state attorneys general and consumer advocates were outraged. As a leader of this coalition, CJ&D organized events and news conferences, brought victims to Capitol Hill and pressured the boards of directors directly. Facing mounting pressure, both companies agreed to accept responsibility for post-bankruptcy defect-related injuries.
In 2002, CJ&D formed Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR), which has become the nation’s largest consumer coalition advocating property/casualty insurance industry reforms. Today AIR includes nearly 100 national and local consumer groups from states across the country. Relying on the skilled expertise of actuary J. Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, AIR has produced groundbreaking studies that are both national and state-specific in scope and has greatly influenced the debate over insurance issues.
In the summer of 2007, CJ&D led a large-scale organizing effort, with news conferences involving victims and public officials in advance of the Stoneridge Supreme Court case, which had widespread implications for victims of securities fraud. Specifically, CJ&D worked with Enron fraud victims on press events in Texas, Oregon and Washington, DC while producing numerous materials and engaging in educational and media efforts. While ultimately the Court ruled against the victims, experts suggested that this effort had a positive impact on the scope of the decision.
CJ&D has worked with a number of states to create new websites called “Caps Harm ...” that provided key information about the damage done by “caps” and other “tort reforms” in specific states, such as Colorado.
CJ&D has conducted three intensive organizing efforts in New York State that show the range of our grassroots organizing capabilities. In 1999, CJ&D directed – along with NYPIRG – the “Access for Justice Campaign,” which involved a “Journey for Justice” bus tour that brought local victims and groups together for press events throughout New York State. This effort succeeded despite a large business-led effort to cap damages and enact other “tort reforms.” In 2007, when a state medical malpractice task force was formed, CJ&D created and led a coalition of consumer and public interest groups in New York State called, “CURE-NY.” This educational effort successfully brought attention to patients’ rights and again helped block all “tort reform” legislation at that time. In 2011, CJ&D brought in additional staff to organize medical malpractice victims and groups. This effort played a significant role in defeating “caps” on damages that were contained in the Governor’s 2011 budget.
In 2005, CJ&D opened a Chicago office, staffed by two full-time organizers, that we maintained for several years during a particularly intense period of political activity in Illinois. CJ&D-Illinois launched “Patients for Justice,” a group of 80 malpractice survivors and families, which became the largest state network of victims in the country. This office also built a coalition of progressive and public interest groups from a variety of interests to focus on civil justice issues.