Business-Friendly Litigation Overhaul Stalls in Senate

Bloomberg BNA
Thursday, July 27, 2017

The 2016 elections gave Republicans control of the White House and both houses of Congress, and the party seemed primed to make good on a long-standing goal for the business community—enacting sweeping changes to the federal litigation process, including curbs on class actions.

The strategy was to fast-track legislation through the House, to give the bills more time to advance in the more deliberative Senate.

Today, those plans appear to be in disarray, a surprise even to a host of consumer advocates including Pamela Gilbert and Joanne Doroshow, veteran opponents of the business-friendly “tort reform” movement, and Remington A. Gregg, Public Citizen’s new counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights.

Gilbert, a partner at Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca in Washington, says the biggest surprise has been the “unexpected Republican opposition” to bills long coveted by industry.

“For the most part, these bills are passing the House without one Democrat in support, but with both Democrats and Republicans in opposition,” Gilbert told Bloomberg BNA.

“The growing unease that many Republicans feel about blocking access to the courts is very interesting and it isn’t something we have seen for many years,” she said.

Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy in New York, agreed.

“The strength of conservative opposition to some of the House bills surprised us,” she said.

“It does seem like on a range of issues, the Republican leadership has been out of touch with the views of many rank-and-file Republicans,” she said.…

But surely internal negotiation or discussions must be taking place that will grease the path for these bills in the upper chamber?

Not so, says Gilbert, who is unaware of any discussions or negotiations on the measures.

Haven’t heard a peep, Doroshow said.

“It doesn’t sound like anything is happening at all,” Doroshow said, “Congress clearly has bigger priorities.”

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