Trial lawyers and reform

Now there’s a conversation starter.

Funny thing is, talk of reform has left some trial lawyer speechless. No kidding.

The tax break for contingent-fee lawyers that would let
them deduct expenses as made, rather than in the year of settling a
suit. Estimates peg the cost of the deduction at $1.6 billion.

Not surprisingly, tort-reformers aren’t too happy about this. 
Writes Shook Hardy’s Victor Schwartz, the general counsel of the
American Tort Reform Association:

“Those who practice plaintiffs’ lawyer work learn quickly that it is
a business similar to other capital businesses. Capital is placed at
risk and a judgment is made whether or not it will bring a profit.
Today the costs of litigation act as a curb against marginal and
frivolous litigation. This is what makes the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ tax
proposal of such great practical importance. While one cannot calculate
it mathematically, having the federal government bear 40% of the
initial costs allows plaintiff’s attorneys to take more cases with
higher risks. The result to industries targeted by plaintiffs’ lawyers
will be staggering.”

A spokesman for the trial lawyers’ trade group, the American Association of Justice declined to provide a statement.

A lot of the terminology needs translation. Peggy Noonan came up with this:

“For instance: As you know, doctors keep fees up and
order expensive tests because they’re afraid of malpractice suits. They
pay terrible insurance premiums. We have to reform that. Stop calling
it “tort reform”; normal people think a tort is something you eat for
dessert. Call it the Limiting Lawyers’ Windfalls bill. No one likes
lawyers anymore, Perry Mason’s dead. And make it real when you talk.
Here you can pinpoint an Obama weakness that you’re not even
exploiting. He won’t go near legal reform because his biggest backers
and contributors are the trial lawyer’s lobby.


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