A Tort Reply: Philip Howard Is Dressing Down the Legal Community for its Frivolous Suits

Washington Post
Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Philip Howard is resigned that he can't avoid sensational cases when arguing that America's biggest legal problem is its out-of-control litigious culture, in which anybody can sue anyone for just about anything.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader, at the Center for Study of Responsive Law, calls Howard "an empty vessel" and says the lawsuit crisis Howard carps about doesn't really exist. "His books are a complete mythology," he says, pointing out statistics from the Justice Department and various think tanks that show the number of tort lawsuits has dropped steadily since 1996 in state and federal courts.

"Quite a crisis, huh?" says Nader. "In other words, he doesn't have a factual foundation. He's into psychiatry, not facts. He relies solely on this fear factor. You know what a frivolous suit is? It's any lawsuit against 'us.'"

Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York, says Howard's argument -- that judges need to take back authority to decide which suits get their day in court and which don't -- shows contempt of the jury system that's fundamental in American law. And ultimately, she adds, his fix would hurt legitimate claimants. "There isn't a single tort reform that Phil Howard or anyone else can propose that targets only frivolous lawsuits," she says. "They take everybody down with it."

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

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