Statement from Joanne Doroshow on ATRA's "Judicial Hellhole" Report

Monday, December 13, 2010

For Release:
December 13 , 2010

Contact: Joanne Doroshow
(212) 267-2801


New York - In another one of its ill-timed, tone deaf defenses of corporate misconduct, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is apparently releasing on December 14, 2010, another in its annual reports attacking judges and juries, calling these jurisdictions “judicial hellholes.” The group is now apparently also going "online" with continuous updates, hoping that judges will now have to continuously look over their shoulder wondering what ATRA and its members think of them. These members include America’s worst industries (oil, chemical, insurance and pharmaceutical) that have a direct financial stake in restricting lawsuits,

It’s not just that this annual report is complete nonsense, having been trashed year after year by respected journalists. (See e.g., an earlier New York Times analysis saying this “report” is without any “apparent methodology.”

What ATRA really seems to hate is our system of government where judges and juries cannot be wined, dined and bought-off by corporate lobbyists like them. So they try instead to issue reports like this, throwing jurisdictions in and out for their own political reasons, and attacking judges and juries who are doing their jobs on behalf of everyday hard-working Americans.

For example, ATRA names Humboldt County, California a so-called “hellhole” because of a jury’s verdict against one of the largest nursing home chains in the nation. The company repeatedly violated state staffing laws, which led to the deaths of patients. The jury found that the chain engaged in “oppression, fraud or malice” in violating these laws. ATRA, on the other hand, misleadingly describes this misconduct as “occasionally falling below staffing levels.”

It is apparent that this document, and the new Tweets to which we have to look forward, have no other point other than to undermine the independence of our judges and juries. This all comes just weeks after national corporate front groups spent frightening amount of money influencing judicial elections around the country. This type of spending has been heavily criticized by, among others, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. ATRA also attacks public officials who stand up to culpable industries in order to protect consumers in their states.

In sum, ATRA is a corporate front group for companies and industries found negligent in court. This document is just another example of ATRA attacking those who are willing to hold their members accountable.

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