Jurors don't count

The SE Texas Record Jun. 1, 2008, 11:00am

Even when corporate defendants win in Jefferson County, they lose.

Judge Donald Floyd made it cynically clear this week just who calls the shots in our local justice system. He struck back for the local trial bar Empire, gratuitously heeding the wishes of bombastic millionaire plaintiff's attorney Glen Morgan by ordering a new trial in the case of Caryl Richardson vs. DuPont.

Just like that, Floyd negated the work of jurors, who spent six weeks in February and March painstakingly listening to arguments from both sides before deciding on behalf of DuPont.

Floyd didn't explain why he ordered a new trial. His written order offered no legal explanation. The public is left to wonder why the jury's hard work was pitched.

Perhaps the judge didn't have the time, or maybe Floyd couldn't think of an explanation. It wouldn't be the first time.

It's hard to imagine how frustrating this must be for DuPont, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars mounting its legal defense, wrestling with Morgan on his home turf. Most companies wouldn't have tried, preferring the lower-risk path of settling out-of-court, a strategy sarcastically known as paying the plaintiff lawyer to sink his teeth into someone else.

That's how some plaintiff attorneys traditionally make their living. They're called "trial lawyers," but their real skill is "negotiating" a settlement.

Morgan's courtroom performance in the DuPont case has affirmed as much. His expertise wasn't in making reasoned arguments based on the law, but in raising specters that can frighten corporate defendants into paying folks like him to go away.

When the courtroom of an anti-business activist like Judge Floyd is available, it helps us understand how Morgan can orchestrate his way to success here in Beaumont.

But DuPont didn't get frightened. They went to trial.

The jury heard all the evidence and didn't buy Morgan's arguments. They voted against Morgan's client. Then the judge stepped in and saved him from a major defeat. Not a word as to why he disregarded the jury's decision was spoken.

A justice system that, without explanation, turns its back on a jury--the people representatives--fails its constitutional responsibility and threatens the rule of law that has guided us for more than two centuries.

Who made Judge Floyd king? Who are the real courthouse puppeteers?

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