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This AP item in today's Washington Post caught our eye, "Cate Edwards, daughter of the former presidential candidate, announces new law firm":

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Cate Edwards, daughter of former presidential candidate John Edwards, has announced she is joining a new public-interest law firm with offices in New York and Washington.

In a post on Twitter, the 30-year-old Edwards said her firm Advocates for Justice will represent "regular, working people."

Yes, and it also appears to be a kissing cousin of the now-defunct radical community organizing group, ACORN.

First, a few notes:

[UPDATE: 9:30 p.m. Perhaps a relaunch? The group has a new, slicker website, www.afjlaw.com. Our reporting below is based on the original website, www.advocatesforjustice.net]

We get curious, a little suspicious, when an organization uses the much misappropriated word "justice" in their title, so sought more information about Advocates for Justice. The group's [original] website, www.advocatesforjustice.net, says it's a 501(c)3, with the following mission:

Advocates for Justice exists to fight fights of working people, to fight for racial justice and equal rights, and to assist those who organize the poor and working people, and who advance the fight for equality. Advocates for Justice will do research, publish educational and investigative materials, and organize lawyers across the country to provide pro bono and low fee legal representation to fulfill its purpose.

The Blog of The Legal Times has more on the firm, "Public Interest Law Firm Opens in D.C., New York."


The Los Angeles trial lawyer who raised the issue of declining membership when campaigning for vice president of the American Association of Justice lost the race to a well-known Dallas attorney.

Simona Farrise was defeated by Lisa Baron Blue according to a note on the AAJ website.

As we reported in this PoL post, Farrise's statement of candidacy stated: "[Instead] of increasing our numbers, AAJ continues to shed members at an alarming rate." An AAJ spokesman later disputed the claim as misleading. (PoL)

Baron Blue campaigned on her AAJ activities and fundraising prowess on behalf of Democratic candidates. She is founder of the Baron and Blue firm in Dallas, which specializes in asbestos lawsuits. Her husband was the late Fred Baron, a prominent plaintiffs' attorney and Democratic contributor.


Vice President Biden raised [update: at least] hundreds of thousands of dollars at an event in conjunction with the American Association for Justice's annual convention in Chicago Monday.

"You're the ones who say -- for all the malarkey you get -- you're well remunerated for what you do," Biden said. "... But man, I don't know what we'd do without you. Who is going to step up and take the case of the little guy who's getting screwed?"

You know, like all those little guys who used to work for the nation's largest gas can manufacturer, now losing their jobs because of frivolous litigation? Blitz U.S.A. closes today, putting 117 employees out of work. (Daily Oklahoman, Wall Street Journal editorial, "The Tort Bar Burns On," WSJ letters in response.)

Interesting how little advance notice of Biden's appearance there was. In the past, AAJ's full agenda for its convention would sometimes list outside political events. This time? Nope. Its as if the association of plaintiffs' attorneys was understood to be a political negative for candidates.

We recently wrote on how the AAJ's membership had dropped by half over the past decade, but AAJ's influence come less from its membership than its political contributions. To wit:

Alison Frankel of Thomsons/Reuters followed up on our report and received this defense of membership numbers from AAJ. It's misleading, an AAJ spokesman (Christopher Scholl) said, because the association has redefined its membership rules and culled its lists.

I asked Scholl for hard numbers to back his assurances of AAJ's continued success. He said the group does not disclose membership revenue, but he did send me a spreadsheet of contributions to AAJ's Political Action Committee, which are publicly reported. According to the spreadsheet, which goes back to 1995, 2011 was a record year for the PAC, which took in more than $2.7 million. That followed a slight dip in 2009 and 2010, when receipts were around $2.4 million a year. This year, the PAC had taken in $1.3 million as of June.
Fighting for the little guy by making millions of dollars of campaign contributions..

Scholl also wrote a blog post at www.fightingforjustice.org, "Big Numbers Expected at AAJ Convention." We read the post as defensive.

More Biden in Chicago, City of Broad Shoulders, which makes for really twisted arms:

[UPDATE: 9:25 a.m.] Bork bashing!

"Imagine the Supreme Court after four years of Romney. This is not scare tactics, just what he said," Biden said. "If you're frightened, it's because you should be. You know who his adviser on constitutional issues is? Appointed officially? Robert Bork."

No surprise coming from Biden. George Will, 1987, "Biden v. Bork."


The trial lawyers are jumping fully into the voter-identification conflict, with the American Association for Justice creating a Voter Protection Action Committee and offering training to its members.

AAJ recently added three training sessions to the agenda of its annual convention, which starts this weekend in Chicago. From the webpage promoting the training via hyperbole:

A coordinated effort to suppress the vote and skew the outcome of the 2012 elections is under way. More than 5 million voters could be affected--more votes than decided the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. No surprise, the legislation heavily targets young, poor, and African American voters--who disproportionately support Democrats. Come hear about the effects these new laws could have on voters and how you can help!


Membership in the nation's largest trial lawyers' association has fallen by half over the past decade, a candidate for a top office in the American Association for Justice says.

"[Instead] of increasing our numbers, AAJ continues to shed members at an alarming rate. Ten years ago, AAJ claims 50,000 members. Today AAJ member numbers are less than half that -- a time when our fight requires that our numbers multiply," wrote Los Angeles attorney Simona Farrise in her candidate's statement for the office of AAJ vice president.

Farrise, founder of the Farrise Law Firm, is challenging noted trial lawyer Lisa Baron Blue of the Baron & Blue Law Firm in Dallas, who currently serves as AAJ's secretary. Both firms specialize in asbestos litigation. (Baron Blue's statement of candidacy)


Resuming Point of Law blogging after a hiatus*, we return to reporting on the most under-covered lobbying outfit in D.C. and the nation, the American Association for Justice, i.e., the trial lawyers.

The AAJ concludes its winter convention in Phoenix at the Biltmore Report and Spa today, a four-day event held under the Orwellian-sounding theme, "Strength in Knowledge, Power from Networking, United for Justice." The choice of Arizona - with its retrograde immigration policies - obviously gave some members heartburn, but it's OK, they were assured:

The state law has been eviscerated in court decisions. Rather than continue to punish Arizona citizens, including the many Latino low-wage workers who depend upon tourist business for their livelihoods, Latino leaders in Arizona are uniformly asking for meetings to resume and people to visit Arizona. We at AAJ are locked into a hotel contract that requires a major penalty for canceling the convention. While we considered doing so, the penalty we face and subsequent actions by Latino leaders asking that we not boycott Arizona resulted in AAJ's decision to go forward with the convention in Arizona and to have a major focus on immigration as a part of the convention.

(Speaking of boycotts and "eviscerated laws": In 2009, the AAJ relocated its summer convention from the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego because the owner, Doug Manchester, had donated $125,000 to Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, prompting a boycott of the hotel.) 

Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, did give a talk on how to overturn state immigration laws like Arizona's SB 1070, and there was a "Hot Topics" set of presentations on "Fighting for Justice in the Courts and in the Courtroom,  with class action lawsuits and immigration among the issues. (Full conference agenda, .pdf'ed.)


JoAnne Kloppenburg will not challenge the results of Wisconsin Supreme Court election in court, she announced today in a news conference. Following a lengthy county-by-county recount, the Government Accountability Board last week certified incumbent Justice David T. Prosser Jr. as the winning candidate in the April 5 election. Prosser received 752,694 votes and Kloppenburg received 745,690 votes, a difference of 7,004 votes or 0.46 percent.

The announcement by Kloppenburg, a deputy attorney general, means that the Wisconsin Supreme Court retains its 4-to-3 conservative majority and is less likely to be sympathetic toward a legal challenge against the state's news collective bargaining law for public employees. Last Thursday, May 26, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi threw out the law, ruling that the Republican Senators had violated open-meetings laws when they passed the legislation with insufficient notice. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has Sumi's expected ruling here, and more coverage here.


The things you learn reading through the schedule for the American Association for Justice's annual convention, Part III ... (Earlier posts here and here.)

The use of social media to maximize one's prospects for suing people and businesses is a recurring theme at the AAJ's convention scheduled for July 9-13 in Manhattan.

Part II of the Litigation at Sunrise sessions -- a series of 10 minute presentations -- features these topics:

  • Discoverability of Facebook Postings, Prof. Jeanne Kosieradzki of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.
  • Text Messages, Cell Phones, and the Constitution, R. Champ Crocker, AL [Champer Crocker -- A great name for a trial lawyer!]
  • Post-Trial Motions to Interview Jurors: The Impact of Social Networking and Other Late Discovered Information, Stuart N. Ratzan, FL
  • Proving Your Failure to Warn Claim Through Twitter, Jason E. Ochs, CA


The things you find reading through the schedule for the American Association for Justice's annual convention, Part II... (Part I is here.)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has scheduled a fundraising reception for Sunday evening, July 10, at the Hilton New York, hitting up the trial lawyers for contributions to his re-election campaign.

Tester is running against Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), and the Democrat's prospects depend greatly on his maintaining his image as a regular Joe, a working rancher true to his Montana ways, untempted by Washington. (See this May 20 Washington Post feature.) But there's no more Washington of Washington special interests than the trial lawyer lobby.

The AAJ has an affinity for Montana Democrats. Gov. Brian Schweitzer was a featured speaker at the 2008 convention in Philadelphia, where he invited controversy by "joking" about manipulating the results of the 2006 election in which Tester narrowly defeated Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). In January 2010, the Democratic governor jetted off to Hawaii for the AAJ's winter gathering.

The AAJ is also promoting an appearance of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) at the summer convention, scheduled July 9-13 in Manhattan. Brown is the invited guest at Sunday's meeting of the AAJ PAC Club M luncheon. The online promotion touts:

Please join AAJ PAC for a special luncheon to thank members who contribute $1,000 or more per year to AAJ PAC with invited speaker Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Senator Brown is a true champion of the civil justice system and will give a firsthand update on the issues affecting your clients and your practice in the U.S. Senate.

M Club members know that choosing a member of Congress is as important as choosing a jury and their support is the backbone of AAJ PAC.

That's bald, isn't it? We can't buy juries, but we can sure buy ...

The trial lawyer/Democratic fundraising connection was also in the public eye last summer when 11 U.S. Democratic Senate candidates traveled to the AAJ's convention in Vancouver, B.C., raising money at an event featuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-MT). Attendance at the fundraiser quickly became an issue in Senate races in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and elsewhere.

The only other fundraiser we see scheduled for this July's NYC annual convention is for Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), the former president of the Iowa Trial Lawyer Association. He's a regular.



The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution holds a hearing at 2 p.m. today, "Can We Sue Our Way to Prosperity?: Litigation's Effect on America's Global Competitiveness." Witnesses:


  • Paul Hinton, Vice President, NERA Economic Consulting. Hinton has done extensive work in economic analysis of products liability, with studies of asbestos, silicone breast implants, and homebuilder liability. (Curriculum vitae)
  • Charles Silver, McDonald Chair in Civil Procedure, University of Texas School of Law. (Curriculum vitae). Silver is a critic of Texas' medical liability reforms for undermining patient safety and opposes congressional efforts to pass similar federal reforms.
  • John Beisner, Skadden, Arps, L.L.P. is a corporate defense counsel, co-head of Skadden's Mass Torts and Insurance Litigation Group. He focuses on the defense of purported class actions, mass tort matters and other complex civil litigation in both federal and state courts.

 

 


Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.