Consumer Group Condemns Vicious Report Attacking Judges Across America

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

For Immediate Release:

December 13, 2006
Contact: Joanne Doroshow or Laurie Beacham

Consumer Group Condemns Vicious Report Attacking Judges Across America

New York, NY – The Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D) today called the American Tort Reform Association’s “Judicial Hellholes 2006” report attacking judges in West Virginia, “vicious and undemocratic, not to mention dishonest and ungrounded.”  In its report released today, ATRA launches a ferocious attack on fair and independent judges based on the apparent views of its members that include polluters, tobacco companies, and the insurance industry, among other industries. 
“After enactment of legislation that has severely weakened the state’s civil justice system, this report is incredibly brazen in its vicious and unfounded attacks on West Virginia’s courts,” said Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director for CJ&D.  “What’s more, it is a shameful violation of the very foundations of our democracy.  The American public does not want judges to have to look over their shoulder to calculate how their decisions might play with corporate-backed special interest groups like this.”  
Doroshow added, “ATRA believes that rulings by judges that hold industries accountable are bad for the state, harming West Virginia, when, in fact, the opposite is true.  West Virginia’s economy is strong and growing.”  For example, there is strong evidence that West Virginia’s economy is in better shape today than in recent memory.  “In the 12 month period between December 2004 and December 2005, more than 11,000 jobs were created in West Virginia.” 1  The state ranked among the ten lowest in the nation in terms of cost of doing business, according to the 2005 Milken Institute Cost of Doing Business Index, with costs thirteen percent below the national average.  Its revenues for the 2004-5 budget year came in at over $430 million – more than thirteen percent above original budget projections.

In its 2005 report, ATRA also named West Virginia as a Hellhole.  This was based on factual errors, and also ignored other evidence to the contrary provoking condemnation by local officials.  As reported by the Associated Press on December 12, 2006, “Members of [West Virginia’s] interim Joint Commission on Economic Development criticized the ongoing effort by the state chamber, its U.S. counterpart and other business groups to tar the Mountain State as a ‘judicial hellhole.’”2
According to Doroshow, “With money and politics already dominating the executive and legislative branches, our court system is one of the only places left in America where injured citizens can successfully confront powerful industries and institutions and stop misconduct.  The last thing we need are bogus attacks from groups like ATRA that threaten judicial independence, a cornerstone of our democracy, for the sake of restricting legitimate lawsuits against corporate wrongdoers.”  

1 American Association for Justice, December 12, 2006, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics,

2 Lawrence Messina, “Lawmakers complain about chamber ad campaign,”  Associated Press, December 12, 2006.



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