Thursday, February 27, 2003

Here's a link, via Instapundit, showcasing Walter Olson, an intellectual leader of the tort reform movement. In my own admittedly biased fashion, here are some thoughts, after reading the profile:
Olson is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank funded by those entities who stand to benefit from tort limitations;

Olson has never practiced law, and it's unclear from the article whether he even went to law school. It appears from the article that he has gone from one conservative think tank to another, without much contact with the "real world." In my humble opinion, it's hard to criticize philosophies and tactics of trial lawyers if you haven't ever been involved in trial litigation;

The profile says: "Mr. Olson’s vision could be the inspiration for John Grisham’s latest legal thriller 'The King of Torts,' in which obscenely rich trial lawyers fly their private jets in ostentatious loop de loops, landing every now and again to mine an industry for everything it’s worth." See my review of the book, but suffice it to say that the fictional defendants in that book were in fact at fault; they were responsible for the wrongs they were sued for. Please remember that most of we trial lawyers are just trying to make a living. The tort "reformers" always oversimplify when they refer to trial lawyers as if they all were filthy rich and just sit around thinking up ways to screw defendants. It just ain't so.

The piece says: "Surprisingly, lawyers aren’t terribly harsh on Mr. Olson. 'I find my best fans are lawyers because they’re the ones who know most of all how bad things are,' he said. Well, here's one lawyer who's hard on the guy. Things are not that bad!

Olson doesn't much like liability caps [that's good], but does advocate a loser pays rule as a disincentive to file not-well-taken claims. If a case is found by a judge or an appellate court to be frivolous, the court can order the plaintiff to pay expenses, including attorney's fees to the defendant. That's the law now. Given the high expenses of major litigations -- you can spend millions in expenses in a typical tobacco case -- the plaintiffs' bar needs no additional disincentives.

There's a reference to libertarianism in the article. As I understand it, one of the fundamental tenets of libertarians is "the less government the better." If that is the case, then why are all these so-called libertarians supporting major new federal tort limitation legislation that would cause profound damage to our 7th Amendment right to a jury trial?

Sorry -- just me venting. Well, I am venting, but I'm not very sorry.

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