Illinois Civil Justice League: January 2005

January 31, 2005

Hopkins to Maag: "Lawsuit is a colossal bad idea"

Madison County trial lawyer John Hopkins (who doubles as the anti-Tort Reform columnist in the Madison County Record), asks former Appellate judge Gordon Maag to drop his $110 million defamation lawsuit against the Illinois Coalition for Jobs & Prosperity.

According to Hopkins:

"Gordon Maag’s $110 million lawsuit is a colossal bad idea, and should be dropped.

Gordon, I have known you for 25 years, argued against you as a lawyer in the beginning of our careers, later to stand before you as a judge. I do consider you to be friend, albeit not a close one. Your lawsuit continues to feed the beast of negative publicity, flaming the fires of hysteria, not only against you, but all of us on this side of the ball."

A statement from the Coaltion for Jobs & Prosperity about the suit can be found here. The Belleville News-Democrat reported just after Christmas that an out-of-county judge would be selected for the case. The judge chosen by IL Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary McMorrow is Associate Judge Stuart Shiffman of Sangamon County.

(UPDATE: Sorry for the absence of postings in the past few weeks. Things will soon be back on track after a series of server problems on our main site - and announcing today - a redesign of the look of www.icjl.org. Please check it out...)

January 12, 2005

Americans favor Caps on Pain and Suffering

In a study released by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that studies health care issues, Americans overwhelmingly favor reforming our medical liability system.

In a press conference held yesterday, the School and Foundation released some interesting facts about their survey of American views of the current tort system and efforts to change it, including:
- Seventy-two percent support legislation requiring an independent specialist review of a case before a lawsuit could be filed
-63 percent favored caps on damages for pain and suffering

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting a "steep increase" in trauma in Illinois trauma patients at St. Louis University (SLU) Hospital, which is considered the first hospital over the river from Metro-East Illinois.

The number of Illinois patients DOUBLED over the past two years, up to 946 last year from 471 in 2002, and now accounts for 34 percent of the hospital's overall trauma caseload.

More from the article:

Barnes-Jewish Hospital, meanwhile, reported 316 trauma admissions from Illinois last year, up 34 percent from 2003. In 2001, the hospital admitted only 50 trauma patients from Illinois, Jennifer Arvin, a hospital spokeswoman, said Monday.

Arvin said Barnes continued to see an increase in inpatient neurosurgery cases from Illinois last year - 687 of them, 33 percent more than in 2003.

BJC is now seeing more than SIX TIMES more trauma patients since 2001? Incredible, but true. That's more than 1200 Illinois patients who lost critical time in an emergency being driven or airlifted to St. Louis because an abusive legal system has driven neuro doctors from the Metro-East.

January 07, 2005

Propagating ATLA Propaganda - You Paid For It!

One Illinois congresswoman appears to have no problem being propped up by propagating the trial lawyers' propaganda.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, one of the most pro-trial-lawyer legislators in DC, has lifted ATLA propaganda directly from the ATLA website and pasted it directly onto her own (taxpayer-supported) legislative website.

ATLA propaganda sheet on medical malpractice (see highlighted area):


Congresswoman Schakowsky's web-version of the propaganda (see highlighted area):


The least she could do is attribute the propaganda to its misleading source: The Trial Lawyers.

And we - the taxpayers - pay for her site!

Schakowsky was one of the most outspoken floor opponents of the Civil Justice Reform Amendments of 1995 - along with former Rep. Tom Dart, Rep. Lou Lang, Rep. Jay Hoffman, and former Rep. Rod Blagojevich. She's also married to Robert Creamer, former head of the ultra-leftwing Illinois Public Action.

(As Ted Frank points out on PointOfLaw.com, the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA)can't win a debate on the medical liability crisis, so they've resorted to pulling the quotes from their poorly-argued stories pushed to the media in 2004.)

January 06, 2005

Stop the Insanity!

The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch announced the results of its 8th Annual "Wacky Warning Label" contest today (past results available from Ted Frank at Overlawyered.com).

The Winner:
A flushable toilet brush that warns users:
“Do not use for personal hygiene”


(Photo used with M-LAW permission)

As if the CJ&D Zany Immunity Awards weren't enough to remind us of how litigious our world is, now our fellow citizen needs help reminding not use a toilet brush as a tooth brush?!?

As if rubbing salt in the wound (Warning: This is just a cliche, PLEASE do not try rubbing salt in wound in your own home), CJ&D President Joanne Doroshow is quoted by the AP:

"It's much better to be very cautious ... than to be afraid of being made fun of by a tort reform group."

The bigger question is society's need for these warning labels. The obvious answer is that the manufacturer has put the warning label on the product to buffer them from litigation.

But, in its practical sense...Do we, as a society, now need a reminder to not use toilet brushes as tooth brushes? I would be insulted if anyone ever "reminded" me of the fact. You should feel insulted that trial lawyers and their spokespeople now require it!

It's not a question of being "ridiculed" by tort reform groups, the fact that the label exists is an insult from trial lawyers to the rest of us in humanity.

Madison County is "Magic"...?

Before commenting on the possible "magical" nature of Madison County, I'd like to again thank Evan Schaeffer for his invitation to Guest Post on Notes from the (Legal) Underground. Today, Evan has posted a counterpoint response to my post, which I hope garners some comments today on either of our sites.

Thanks to Professor Bainbridge for calling my Guest Post "thoughtful" yesterday, although the only thing "money" in Madison County seems to be our legal system. Also, Rich Miller of Capitol Fax noticed us yesterday, calling ICJL Blog "pretty in-your-face stuff at times, which makes it an interesting read." Thanks for the compliment (I think).

As for Madison County's "magic," I wanted to briefly point out something that Walter Olson caught in The American Spectator. In the article "Tort Reform’s Ground Zero," William Tucker details a quote from infamous Mississippi trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs:

[W]hat I call the "magic jurisdiction,"…[is] where the judiciary is elected with verdict money. The trial lawyers have established relationships with the judges that are elected; they're State Court judges; they're popul[ists]. They've got large populations of voters who are in on the deal, they're getting their [piece] in many cases. And so, it's a political force in their jurisdiction, and it's almost impossible to get a fair trial if you're a defendant in some of these places. The plaintiff lawyer walks in there and writes the number on the blackboard, and the first juror meets the last one coming out the door with that amount of money.… The cases are not won in the courtroom. They're won on the back roads long before the case goes to trial. Any lawyer fresh out of law school can walk in there and win the case, so it doesn't matter what the evidence or the law is.

The thought that a trial lawyer would acknowledge this type of system must be offensive to citizens who trust that our American constitution will bring us fair courts - and especially offensive to voters who often elect state judges.

Tucker goes on to comment:

Trial lawyers are able to concentrate their firepower in "magic jurisdictions" like Madison because of loopholes in the federal rules of procedure. The trick is to keep the case from being bounced up to federal court, where class actions are much more difficult to certify and where the judges are less susceptible to persuasion.

So, is Madison County "magic"? Tucker acknowledgs it. President Bush certainly acknowledged it yesterday in his visit to Madison County. Perhaps local officials and judges would be less embarassed by adjectives like "magic"?

Remember, the reference to "magic" only comes from one of the nation's most famous trial lawyers. I guess one man's "magic" is another's "hellhole". Either way, in Madison County, the results are the same: Lost jobs, lost doctors, lost opportunity.

January 05, 2005

Reformer-In-Chief


The Presidential Visit - Early Coverage

I'll have some photos up from the President's Visit to Collinsville shortly. Until then, Diane Meyer from Respublica has a good amount of Blog coverage, and KSDK Channel 5 has segments of the speech online. KMOV Channel 4 has photos, the AP story, and some video online (subscription site).

The most comprehensive story is available now from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, including parts of the AP story and some localized information.

Guest Blogging

Today, we have a guest blog on "Notes from the (Legal) Underground," the blog of Metro-East trial lawyer Evan Schaeffer. Some might ask, "Why would you want to guest blog on a trial lawyer site?" A fair question. I've found that while Evan obviously feels differently about tort reform issues than the Illinois Civil Justice League, he has taken the time and space on his blog to address Tort Reform and he has been fair to advocates who have defended our viewpoint.

I encourage everyone to check out the Guest Blog, and defend our viewpoint when - I won't even pose "if" - our opponents post comments later today. But, I thank Evan for the opportunity to Guest Blog.

My Guest Blog touches on the comments made by Congressman Jerry Costello, who was once an opponent of tort reform and now appears to have changed his tune. Additional analysis of those comments is presented in a letter-to-the-editor by Godfrey retired surgeon Bob Hamilton, which appeared in this morning's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His comments about Federalism and our state court system are definitely worth the read.

I'll post photos from the President's visit later this afternoon.

January 04, 2005

“Moore” attention to the crisis

The “zany” folks at the Center for Justice & Democracy will make what we think is their very first visit to Madison County today, holding a press conference prior to the President’s visit.

It’s hard to find credible any organization that has as one of its top advisors “filmmaker” Michael Moore. Moore has shown how friendly he is with the medical industry, pledging to start a new film project – with pleasant working title of Sicko – that “exposes” breakdowns in the healthcare system.

So it’s no wonder that the Moore-backed CJ&D is here to rip President Bush in his first visit to our Judicial Hellhole.

We featured the CJ&D a few weeks ago for the release of their new “zany” Top 10 immunity awards, which we believe are great examples of how state legislatures are reacting to just how crazy our civil justice system has become (if you missed it, please visit Ted Frank’s analysis on Overlawyered.com).

One immunity that is NOT mentioned in the study is one that would benefit doctors most in Illinois: immunity to apologize to their patients. The concept, which is inherently different from the trial lawyer’s SorryWorks proposal, would give medical providers the ability to say they are sorry for a 72-hour period after any medical mistake (we think the law would be even better without the three-day sunset) and has been annually sponsored by the Illinois State Medical Society (this year Senator Bill Haine pushed for the legislation).

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association vehemently opposes all medical liability reform in our state legislature, including this very sensible reform. They, of course, ask doctors to say they are Sorry and then expect to use this apology as evidence against the doctor in court.

I’ll be on pins and needles wondering if the CJ&D will be stopping off at the Madison County Record after they ripped into the publication with a December release, again showing that the only “acceptable” view is their own Moore-inspired view. Not much “democracy” in that!

January 02, 2005

Old Year's Resolution (Final Results)

The Holiday Week presented an immense amount of interesting news. While there's no word on any interesting New Years Resolutions for the Madison County legal system, there was interesting resolution to 2004's legal record, including a News-Democrat report about new class action litigation regarding the Pfizer medication Celebrex.

The Madison County suit (04-L-1422) was filed by St. Louis firm Marker Armstrong LLP, which includes two attorneys who met while working for Carr Korein Tillery. Armstrong, in fact, is a former law clerk for former Appellate Judge Gordon Maag.

The Madison County Record details the top class action filers in 2004, which is seemingly more diverse from previous years. I believe this is first time (at least in the past three to four years) that Korein Tillery filed more than the Lakin Law Firm. As Brian Brueggemann reported last week, the overall numbers are down in Madison County from 2003, however ATRA recently reported in their Judicial Hellholes report that class action litigation in St. Clair County is now on the rise.


For more information on Today's legal reform news, check out the ICJL News Update, available everyday by clicking on the gold button above. For recent news headlines from ICJL.org, check out the ICJL Legal Reform News section, available under ICJL Resources.


 

© 2005 Illinois Civil Justice League