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‹ FEATURED DISCUSSION

November 07, 2006

Not your usual AG candidate

By Walter Olson

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown is overwhelmingly favored to become the state's next attorney general, but don't assume he'll necessarily follow in the footsteps of Bill Lockyer:

"I'm going to take a very practical, common-sense approach as attorney general," Brown said in a recent interview. "I'm someone who's acutely aware of the fact that we as a state have added 25,000 laws since I was governor. I think we ought to give people some space to live their lives." ...

And don't assume that he will agree completely with Lockyer's decisions. Asked about the global-warming lawsuit, Brown said he'd have to "take a good look at it."

"I think there's an issue of causation there," he said, adding that California needs to consider automakers' "imploding" financial situation. ...

"He was the first politician to turn litigation into a press release [as California Secretary of State, elected in 1970]," said Hiestand, the former Brown aide [Fred Hiestand, now prominent in California litigation-reform circles].

In post-Watergate 1974, the reform-minded Brown was swept into the governor's office. One year later, Brown and the Legislature were besieged with pleas from doctors facing skyrocketing malpractice insurance costs. Brown called a special session that would eventually lead to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, California's law capping pain and suffering awards at $250,000.

Hiestand remembers philosophical discussions with Brown on the best ways to compensate malpractice victims. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1964, Brown clerked for state Supreme Court Justice Mathew Tobriner, a contemporary of tort expert and future chief justice Roger Traynor. Brown, Hiestand said, recalled Traynor's critical dissent in a 1962 case where a woman injured on a bus was awarded $134,000 for non-economic damages. Traynor said such awards were troubling because they are tied to subjective amounts of pain and suffering.

"At one point Jerry looks at me and says, 'Money is a false god. If you're in pain, you should turn to religion, sex or drugs,'" Hiestand said.

(Cheryl Miller, "Former Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Runs for State Attorney General", The Recorder/Law.com, Oct. 16).

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Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.