Kia Franklin

Obama for Tort Reform?

We’re being outfoxed here, guys. And not just in the sense that has been discussed all over the blogosphere over the past week (like here), after both Senators Obama and Clinton did interviews on the notoriously biased Fox News Station. But we're also outfoxing ourselves by allowing influential leaders to discuss the issues that affect us in very misleading ways, without holding them accountable.

I consider it very unfortunate that a prime example comes from Senator Obama’s Fox interview, wherein he touted his support for tort “reform” as an instance in which he transcended party politics. One assumes he is referring to his vote in favor of the Class Action Fairness Act (go here to see why CAFA is no good for middle class Americans). Chris Wallace asked Senator Obama:

On some issues where Democrats have moved to the center… you stay on the left and you are against both. And so people say, "Do you really want a partnership with Republicans, or do you really want unconditional surrender from them?"

To which he responded:

No, look, I think this is fair. I would point out, though, for example, that when I voted for a tort reform measure that was fiercely opposed by the trial lawyers, I got attacked pretty hard from the left.

In general, Senator Obama was characteristically diplomatic during the interview. Maybe the folks over at Fox are a little disappointed that Obama did not give them much of a show, but I think they'll soon be pleased to see that the way he handled this opportunity actually played into their agenda.

The fatal flaw in Obama's response is that it characterizes a vote for tort “reform” as a refusal to cave in to those "trial lawyers" (and by proxy the Dems, I guess)--a common trick used to subsume the relevance this issue has for ordinary citizens who just want to live in safety from dangerous products, fraud, and unnecessary injury.

Yes, trial lawyers make a living off of successful lawsuits. So does the defense bar--actually, the defense bar often makes money either way a trial gets resolved. But with respect to tort "reforms" that eliminate or severely limit a person's right to get into court in the first place or to obtain adequate compensation, or to otherwise hold a wrongdoing corporation accountable, much more is at stake than lawyers' fees...We're talking about the rights of regular people not to be defrauded, discriminated against, unlawfully harmed, etc., and our ability to enforce our rights through the civil courts.

So all that to say we’re severely missing the point if we think of Obama’s vote for CAFA merely as an ideological divergence from the majority of his Democratic colleagues. Indeed, most Republican voters would be just as freaked out as their Dem counterparts, about tort “reform” and what it does to their rights. Just read the insights of conservative civil justice activist Jordan Fogal for some enlightenment on this. If we all knew the extent to which tort “reform” affects our lives as consumers, employees, and citizens who want to live a safe and healthy life, none of us would be in favor of it. Unfortunately, this isn't discussed very much, especially not in the mass media.

In the same Fox Interview, Obama said he wants to "do what works for the American people." In another speech he added that "people want some help in stabilizing their lives... and that's what we should be talking about today." I'd suggest then, that the Senator start talking about strengthening the civil justice system and stop talking about the mistakes of his past votes for harmful tort "reform".

And because Obama embraces a politics of listening to constituents and has spoken at length about the importance of regular people feeling like their voices are heard, it is very important that we pay attention to things like this, voice our concerns about them, and observe whether this makes any impact at all on how our legal rights are discussed.

See Edwards for Tort Reform?

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 3:35 PM, May 02, 2008 in Debunking Tort "Reform" | Decision 2008 | Framing Tort "Reform" | Presidential Election
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Kia: At the point of a gun, know nothing little Caesars on the bench impose their Medieval garbage tyranny on this lawyer besieged nation. There is no recourse to slow down these plundering bullies. The lawyer profession has every self-stated goal of every law subject in utter failure.

If no lawyer control statutes can pass, ending all lawyer and awful judge self-dealt immunities, self-help has full intellectual and moral justification. It starts with a boycott of all lawyers by all productive entities in the nation. Shun the lawyer. The cult criminal may live in their favorite era, the Dark Ages, until it ends its siege on the nation. If that does not help to slow down this criminal cult enterprise, non-lethal violence has justification. If that does not deter them, ban, arrest, briefly try, and execute the hierarchy, including the entirety of the federal judiciary. Save this nation from these out of control, and lawless, internal traitors. There would be no collateral lawyer gotcha charges of trivial corruptions. Brief excerpts from their appellate decisions would serve as the only evidence of their central crime, insurrection against the Constitution. Once this criminal hierarchy gets summarily executed, pass laws banning anyone who has passed 1L from all benches, legislative seats, and policy positions in the executive branch. The American lawyer profession is the world's wealthiest and most powerful criminal enterprise. It has infiltrated and taken control of the three branches of the government of the US, and should get banned from government.

This is tort reform when the public decides, playtime is over.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 2, 2008 10:55 PM

Obama is a pragmatic man, as are many of who are intelligent and educated enough to understand that highly ideological cliché and rhetoric are no where near as useful, in the long term, as policy tempered by dialogue and compromise. Obama caved in and voted for CAFA, a bad policy for the majority of Americans. I do not think this single vote, however, will play much of a role in an Obama presidency. As a legislator, he was forced to compromise and cut deals. I sincerely hope that as president he will lead from principle, and others will be forced to cave in to his lead. I trust that part of his leadership will be to safeguard the access to the courts of consumers and "average Joes" in America.

Posted by: Anthony C. Coveny, PhD, JD, MA | October 25, 2008 7:52 PM

I would like to point out that this is not about Democrats and Republicans. I don't go into the see a doctor and declare a party. We are all Americans first. When you quit pitting one against the other you will then become legitimate in my book.

Posted by: ssol4569 | June 30, 2009 4:23 PM

I have no objection to victims getting their day in court. What I object to is that the trial attorneys get up to half of the settlement moneys, and these moneys were intended to help the victims. I support reasonable wages for an attorney, but when I am on the jury, I definitely think twice before granting a multi-million dollar settlement, that the victim should have, but will ultimately be substantially usurped by his/her representative.

Posted by: Anny | July 30, 2009 11:43 AM tort reform, no healthcare reform. I love how lawyers try to tell us what they are doing is for the good of the American people. Rediculous lawsuits and greedy lwayers. Go to hell.

Posted by: Tooie | September 8, 2009 1:11 PM