How Edwards Can Talk About Tort “Reform”
As a former trial lawyer John Edwards can expect to be attacked vigorously by the tort “reform” movement throughout his presidential campaign. During his vice presidential run with John Kerry both candidates shied away from talking about access to justice. In response to a question in one of the 2004 presidential debates about tort “reform” John Kerry said “John Edwards and I support tort ‘reform.’”
It seems that both candidates (both in fact lawyers) just simply weren’t willing to have to go about the task of educating the public about the importance of access to the courts. Doing so would have required taking on the tort “reform” movement’s considerable media resources on a hard to understand issue when a lot of other issues were also at stake. After working on this issue as a fellow I can definitely understand their hesitation.
Then again, saying that one supports tort “reform,” can be good or bad depending on how you are defining reform.
One legal reform that Edwards could champion is the implementation of the American Bar Association’s recent resolution on civil legal counsel:
RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody, as determined by each jurisdiction. (link)
Supporting and attempting to help implement this resolution would fit Edwards further within his campaign’s populist narrative that dedicated to helping and empowering the average American get a fair shake.
At the same time readers should be aware that John Edwards has previously said he was proud of the work he did as a trial lawyer.
In his book and in his Newsweek essay, Edwards describes himself as a champion of the "old-fashioned" values of personal responsibility and just deserts. In his view, the doctors and corporations he sued "deserved" to be punished no more and no less than Willie Horton -- the famous parolee used by the Republicans to paint the Democrats as "soft on crime" -- did.
- Issues of Civil Justice and Tort Reform:
What Role Will They Play in the Democratic Primaries (link)
Edwards has also made an interesting suggestion about holding lawyers and doctors alike accountable for their work when they breach their professional obligations.
Edwards should be proud of this previous legal work. It would also be great to hear him incorporate the need for access to justice for all Americans into his already highly compelling populist narrative.
We would love to hear more from Edwards on this issue, and we plan to reach out in the future.