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June 21, 2004


Is Mel Weiss worried?

At the bottom of Josh Gerstein's article focused (rightly) on Judge Guido Calabresi's explosive comments comparing Bush's ascension to power with those of Mussolini and Hitler, he includes the following tidbit:

During a session on corporate crime, a prominent class-action lawyer, Melvyn Weiss of Manhattan, warned that tort reform and similar measures could wipe out the plaintiffs’ bar.

Brandishing a copy of a Manhattan Institute report on trial lawyers, Mr. Weiss said, “This is what we’re up against, ladies and gentlemen, and if we don’t fight it, we’re dead meat.”

Another panelist said stockholders who said little about corporate governance in the 1990s share some of the blame for the recent corporate scandals.

“We were all making money. We weren’t out there saying, ‘Get ‘em Mel. Go get ‘em, Mel,” said a former attorney general of Massachusetts and a former president of Common Cause, Scott Harshbarger. He praised New York’s attorney general for his investigations.

“Elliott Spitzer has not drilled a dry hole yet,” Mr. Harshbarger said.

At another discussion, liberal lawyers said it was hypocritical for Republicans to push federal caps on damages in state tort cases while maintaining that they favor limited federal government.

We in the think tank world often wonder whether our ideas have any impact. While I'm far from convinced that the trial lawyers are in danger of being "dead meat" anytime soon, seeing Mel Weiss brandish a copy of Trial Lawyers, Inc. and the American Constitution Society devote an entire panel to tort reform at its national convention does at least offer some encouragement that we're getting noticed. (Of course, a look at the convention's schedule shows that sponsors for the convention included heavyweight plaintiffs' firms like Baron & Budd and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. And Baron & Budd's Fred Baron, a former head of the American Trial Lawyers Association and current co-chair of Kerry Victory '04, is on the organization's board of directors. So perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised...)

Posted by James R. Copland at 07:20 PM | TrackBack (0)



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