Web site spotlights trial lawyer 'earmarks'

Chris Rizo Jul. 28, 2008, 5:23am

Lisa Rickard

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)---A bevy of provisions that would expand liability laws for businesses and ordinary Americans have been worked into key pieces of legislation by the nation's trial lawyers, a group said Monday.

To expose the so-called legal earmarks, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform has started a Web site and media campaign aimed at spotlighting the vast number of proposals the trial bar has pending before Congress.

"The plaintiffs' trial bar has found a pastime almost as enjoyable as filing lawsuits: convincing Congress to pass legislation allowing them to file more lawsuits," said ILR President Lisa Rickard. "This legislative session, they have tucked trial lawyer 'earmarks'-- vehicles giving them greater opportunity to sue -- into a large number of bills now before Congress."

The Web site, www.TrialLawyerEarmarks.com, shows the "breadth and scope of the trial lawyer agenda through a tangle of vines overtaking the U.S. Capitol Building," the ILR said Monday in a statement.

There are about 28 provisions backed by the trial lawyers that would allow lawyers to file more lawsuits, the statement said.

"The trial lawyer industry will never be satisfied with the amount and scope of lawsuits they are able to file," Rickard said. "If we ignore this growing threat and allow their lawsuit-expanding agenda to envelop Congress, Americans will pay an even higher price through lost jobs, higher prices and clogged courtrooms."

The proposals have been woven into a range of bills, including those that deal with homeland security and farm bills.

One proposal that would grant a $1.6 billion tax break to trial lawyers by changing the rules on how expenses incurred during the representation of a contingency fee client are deducted was squeezed into the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008.

"The deep pockets of the plaintiffs' trial bar have persuaded some members of Congress that America needs more lawsuits. In addition to fighting back against each individual earmark, we must also uproot the trial bar's stranglehold on this Congress in order to protect American businesses and families from the costs of more lawsuits," Rickard said.

Legal Newsline and the Southeast Texas Record are owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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