Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Formed in House of Representatives
March 3, 2011by
On Feb. 10, Representatives Bob Good-latte and Dan Boren announced the creation of a bipartisan legal reform caucus, the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus. Goodlatte and Boren will serve as co-chairs of the newly formed caucus. According to the congressmen, the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus will serve as a forum for discussing and debating the many legal reform issues affecting the civil justice system, including medical malpractice reform, venue reform, patent reform and federal pleading standards. “Our nation’s civil justice system has a direct impact on America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace,” said Goodlatte. “Excessive and frivolous litigation and inefficient rules and procedures drain U.S. companies of desperately needed resources and hinder job growth and innovation.” The congressmen claim that recent estimates indicate that the cost of the U.S. tort liability system, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is more than double the average cost of any other industrialized nation and that America’s businesses and citizens alike need a well-functioning civil justice system that provides for the efficient and timely redress of legitimate disputes without allowing opportunistic parties to game the system. The goals of the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus include strengthening our civil justice system and advancing the United States’ leadership in innovation, job creation and economic growth; advancing the public’s understanding of how civil justice issues affect the free enterprise system as well as America’s global competitiveness; and providing a bipartisan forum for discussion and debate of policy issues related to our nation’s civil justice system. “I look forward to working with my colleague, Congressman Goodlatte, to promote a civil justice system that respects the rule of law while allowing for the type of innovation, economic growth, and free enterprise that makes the United States a leader in global competitiveness,” said Boren. “By providing a bipartisan forum for the discussion, we hope to help educate Members of Congress, staff and the public on policy issues related to our nation’s civil justice system.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has wholeheartedly endorsed the caucus, offering its aid in making “our nation’s overall civil legal system simpler, fairer and faster for all participants.” “According to the respected actuarial firm of Towers Watson, the costs associated with our tort system alone were $248.1 billion in 2009, which translates into a cost of $808 per person,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The system encourages gamesmanship, is incredibly inefficient and often results in inadequate compensation to those truly injured due to the transaction costs associated with litigation.” The Civil Justice Caucus also received the endorsement of the Law & Economics Center at George Mason University School of Law, which formed the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy to provide education programs on civil justice issues. Of course, less optimistic observers noted that reform would be a difficult political venture. “Anything Congress passes not only has to go through the gauntlet of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but must be signed by President Obama, who has shown no stomach for meaningful liability reform, and whose administration has taken several anti-jobs positions to benefit trial lawyers," said Ted Frank, founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness as well as a writer at Overlawyered.com and the Manhattan Institute's PointofLaw.com. In addition to co-chairs Goodlatte and Boren, Representatives Lamar Smith, Trent Franks, Jim Matheson and Collin Peterson serve as founding members of the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus.