Weisbrod Says Trial Lawyers Were Asleep at the Wheel While Big Business Attacked
22 Corporate Crime Reporter 42(12), November 3, 2008

Trial lawyers were asleep at the wheel while big business lobbies launched a massive attack on the civil justice system.

That’s the take of Les Weisbrod, the new President of the American Association for Justice – formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

“There is no question that the organized bar was asleep at the wheel while the Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry and big Pharma were hiring high priced public relations people – akin to Karl Rove – and investing millions to try to persuade the public that trial lawyers were evil and to dupe the public into giving up their rights,” Weisbrod told Corporate Crime Reporter last week. “The damage was done. And what was the intent? It all follows money and profits and corporate greed. This was a program to increase corporate profits at the expense of safety of consumers and taking away civil justice rights.”

Weisbrod defended Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois).

During the last Presidential debate, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) asked Senator Obama – when was the last time you stood up to the leaders of your party?

And Senator Obama said “in terms of standing up to the leaders of my party, the first major bill that I voted on in the Senate was in support of tort reform, which wasn't very popular with trial lawyers, a major constituency in the Democratic Party.”

So, wasn’t Obama using the trial lawyers association as a whipping boy?

“No,” Weisbrod said. “Senator Obama chose his words very carefully. He said he voted for a class action bill and that the trial lawyers were unhappy about that. And that’s true. What he didn’t say was that as a result of that, and as a result of having dialogue over the issue, studying the issue more, that he doesn’t support any additional broad based tort reform measures. If you look at his written positions and statements on his web site and campaign, he doesn’t have anything near what we have seen. And in fact, his position with regard to medical malpractice is a good example. As opposed to embracing caps on medical malpractice, his position is that the way to reduce malpractice premiums for physicians is to subject medical malpractice insurance carriers to antitrust regulation.”

Weisbrod says that being a trial lawyer doesn’t fit into nice and neat political categories. He estimates, for example, that fully a third of trial lawyers are Republican.

How does Weisbrod explain that?

“Go back to the principles the Republican Party was founded on,” Weisbrod said. “Abraham Lincoln was a trial lawyer. The principles were free market economy. That included the ability to freely have lawsuits to hold people responsible for wrongdoing. The original Republican ideals are those of accountability and responsibility. Those principles jive well with trial lawyer principles.”

[For a complete transcript of the Interview with Les Weisbrod, see 22 Corporate Crime Reporter 42(12), November 3, 2008, print edition only.]



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