In our last post we discussed how major corporations try to hide their plan to limit access to the civil justice system and to damage awards from personal injury lawsuits by calling the effort tort reform. Some of the organizations that they use to disguise their campaigns are described below.
Civil Justice Reform Group
This organization is central to the campaign to limit damages and changes laws regulating lawsuits. Known as a secretive group, the CJRG is funded by some of the largest and richest companies in the world. Each of these companies have been found responsible for at least one product or service that has killed or injured Americans, in most cases long after it became known that the item in question, from the Ford Pinto to Vioxx, was dangerous. Since its founding in 1993, CJRG has been the source of many of the intellectual underpinnings of the tort reform movement.
Institute for Legal Reform
An arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and one of the most important players in the tort reform movement, the ILR spent more than $30 million to lobby the federal government for benefits for its members. Although it claims to represent small business, most of its budget comes from the donations of a few major corporations, With an average donation of $600,000, it is clear that the average mom and pop store or small manufacturing firm is not really the primary concern of the ILR. The goal of the organization is to induce the pubic to support corporate interests.
American Legislative Exchange Council
This organization works to change state laws. It writes model legislation, such as tort reform legislation, and lobbies state legislators, often with expensive trips and other perks. Like the other tort reform advocates, it is a secretive organization and prefers to let its targets – the members of state legislatures – do the talking. However in recent years it has received unwanted scrutiny because of some of the legislation that it wrote for Florida and Arizona, the Stand Your Ground law in Florida and the often-vicious immigration laws drafted for Arizona. Although it has been involved in a variety of efforts, as the Arizona and Florida laws make clear, the primary goal of the ALEC is to limit access to the civil justice system.
American Tort Reform Association
The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) was founded in 1986. It once functioned as the PRP arm of the movement, but in recent years has started generating reports, such as the Judicial Hellholes® report. This report is allegedly a list of courts around the country that are seen as unfriendly to business. Not surprising, these courts tend to be ones in which members of the organization have lost. They have also proven skilful at creating organizations purporting to be independent, grass roots organizations, organizations that are actually funded and founded by ATRA.
Searle Civil Justice Institute
This group represents the effort of the tort reform movement to win academic respectability for tort reform. It funds legal and social science research projects through the Law & Economics Center at George Mason University in Virginia, which is a 501 (c) (3) under IRS rules, It does not have to disclose its donors. It prefers to fund projects near and dear to the hearts of tort reform advocates, including the ability of state attorneys general to use outside counsel, using mandatory binding arbitration clauses in contracts, federal pre-emption of state tort law, and class action lawsuits.
In our next post, learn about some of the projects undertaken by these organizations as they try to limit the access of individuals to the civil justice system.
Source: Trial, “Reclaiming Justice: Battling Tort ‘Reform’,” Dec, 2012.