Illinois Civil Justice League: February 2005

February 28, 2005

Will the REAL ‘conflict of interest’ be raised?

Trial lawyers and their accomplices ganged up on the state’s only major medical liability insurer last Wednesday calling the business relationship between the non-profit Illinois State Medical Society and the non-profit ISMIE Mutual (the physician-owned medical liability insurer) a “conflict of interest”.

However, the REAL “conflict of interest” is the relationship between the former director Jay Angoff – posing as a “former industry regulator” – and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA), which “hired” Angoff sometime before May 2004.

According to then-ITLA President Michael Schostok in his May 2004 Vested Interest column:

What wasn’t as clear was how the medical malpractice liability insurance problem would develop here in Illinois. As it turned out, this issue consumed much of the organization’s efforts over the last year as ITLA sought to preserve the rights of Illinois citizens and uncover the truth behind this reoccurring problem. We responded in an aggressive fashion by hiring a well-respected and nationally-known insurance industry expert, Jay Angoff, to analyze the reasons behind the recent escalation of medical malpractice insurance premiums and to inform state legislators about the reasons behind the “crisis.”

So, when Angoff attacked ISMS and ISMIE last Wednesday, was Angoff providing ITLA with the “aggressive” attack on the insurance industry that ITLA paid him to provide?

While newspapers reported Angoff’s testimony as a “former industry regulator” reciting a perceived “conflict of interest” between ISMS and ISMIE, House legislators were prohibited by the lack of dialogue to ask Angoff about his much more obvious and deliberately concealed “conflict of interest” with the ITLA.

And this isn’t the first time that Angoff has been a paid spokesperson for a trial lawyer’s group…

According to the Baltimore Sun, Angoff is also a paid consultant for the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association. Angoff was also an expert witness for the Kentucky Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Roger Brown & Associates, the firm for which Angoff serves “Of Counsel,” is a plaintiff’s firm specializing in very serious personal injury cases, including medical malpractice, class actions, and wrongful death. Angoff’s biography page lists his memberships with the Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

Further investigation of Jay Angoff’s past affiliations includes stints as counsel for Congress Watch and the National Insurance Consumer Organization, both founded by “consumer” (aka trial lawyer) activist Ralph Nader.

Angoff even has a history of “attacks” on tort reformers, cited in the famous 1990 Forbes “Ralph Nader Inc.” article:

“When American Tort Reform Association former president James Coyne asked Nader about his plaintiff attorney funding at a press conference in Washington, he stormed from the podium and his supporter, Jay Angoff, rushed over and punched Coyne in the eye.

(Only online reprint available at

Walter Olson reports on that Angoff recently represented the Center for Justice and Democracy and ATLA on media conference calls. Also included on the conference calls was William McNary of USAction, the group that ran advertisements criticizing President Bush during his January visit to Madison County.

So how does a trial lawyer who has professional associations with five different trial lawyer groups and Ralph Nader get invited to testify as an insurance industry “expert” before an Illinois House Committee? Without any mention of his recent – or perhaps current – contracts with trial lawyer associations?

Will only the trial lawyers be represented at the reform table again this year? Hopefully, legislators will get to the bottom of these unasked questions today.

Otherwise, someone needs to tell Speaker Madigan, who attended nearly all of the three hour committee hearing last Wednesday, that this year’s effort to reform medical liability is just another half-hearted effort at attacking anything but the REAL problem – the lawsuit abuse perpetrated upon our state’s doctors.

February 09, 2005

Did you hear the one about the lawyer?

Lawyer jokes have upheld legal muster in New York this week, as two men arrested for "disorderly conduct" for telling lawyer jokes outside of a Long Island courthouse received a favorable outcome in front of a grand jury.

"It's still legal in America to tell jokes - even about lawyers," said the attorney for the defendants, Harvey Kash and Carl Lanzisera.

As the Chicago Sun-Times reported today:

Kash and Lanzisera are founders of Americans for Legal Reform, a group that uses confrontational tactics to urge greater public access to the courts. They said they have mocked lawyers outside courts for years.

Kash, 70, testified he was exercising his First Amendment right when he shared a few lawyer jokes with his friend Lanzisera, 65. Some people giggled, but a lawyer in the line told them to pipe down and reported them to court officers. They were arrested for allegedly being abusive and causing a disturbance.

The grand jury dismissed the charge against Kash. The charge against Lanzisera was dropped because of insufficient evidence.

What was the joke that got them into the legal mess? According to the Sun-Times:

"How do you tell when a lawyer is lying?" Kash reported asked. "His lips are moving," the pair howled in unison.

Check out their Americans for Legal Reform website, it has a "lawyer joke of the day" and the song, "I Dreamed I was a Lawyer," is at least worth the time.

Maybe the group should bring their $50,000 challenge to Madison County? Not sure of the outcome, but it would certainly be entertaining. They would arrive, immediately be served with subpoena's (the proverbial Madison County red carpet for those favoring judicial reform), and then the fun would only be starting...

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© 2005 Illinois Civil Justice League