Shot in the arm for tort overhaul

New York Times
Sunday, November 17, 2002

The politics of overhauling American tort law are anything but straightforward. They involve odd alliances, ideological paradoxes and a great deal of money.

Yet it is all but certain that the Republican Party's election victories will move the call for reform, sought by the business world for years, higher on the legislative agenda. "It's going to be a hot priority," said Joan Claybrook, the president of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group. "It's going to be brutal."

By most accounts, however, the Republican majority in the new Congress is facing treacherous political terrain on the tort reform issue.

"It's very scary for those of us concerned about protecting the jury system," said Joanne Doroshow, the executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer group that focuses on the civil courts, "but it's hardly a done deal that Congress will start passing huge amounts of tort reform."

Mr. Nugent, a defense lawyer, said action like that was likely.
"We are now in a political environment where reform has a real shot," he said, "and that will save jobs and help the economy."

Ralph Nader, the former presidential candidate, said he agreed that legislation was likely. But he thinks it will backfire. "The Republicans will attack the civil justice system," he said. "That will sharpen and focus the issues, and it will boomerang against them."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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