Civil Justice Memo
No. 29 October 1996
Investigative Reports: Politics and the Trial Bar
From around the American press, we keep seeing outbreaks of powerful investigative journalism on our issues. The latest is an astonishing piece in the October Worth in which veteran financial writer and auto insurance reformer Andrew Tobias examines the tactics by which organized trial lawyerdom and its friend Ralph Nader managed to defeat three California legal-reform initiatives earlier this year. Tobias’ sleuthing has uncovered some truly remarkable new findings—don’t miss his account of the contents of a disclosure form that turned up “misfiled” in a Sacramento state office. That’s just one of several leads that others in the press could easily pick up and run with—any volunteers?
The other article everyone’s been discussing is Carolyn Lochhead’s powerful expose in the September 23 Weekly Standard. It documents large political contributions from trial lawyers to state attorneys general who then turn around and award these same lawyers, often without even the semblance of competitive bidding, contingency-fee contracts worth potential billions of dollars to represent the states in tobacco litigation. Opponents have attacked the article’s numbers (which had previously been reported by the Wall Street Journal’s news side) detailing aggregate trial lawyer political contributions because they were originally misadvertised as coming from a group with a vague good-government label when the actual compiling was done for a public relations firm with interested tobacco-industry clients. On the other hand, no one seems to be denying that the contribution numbers are accurate. Read for yourself and see whether you agree with the picture Lochhead paints of ethical dereliction and power-mongering among both the princes of the bar and a runaway new set of state AGs.
Also attached are some bonus clips of our fellows’ recent writing.