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August 22, 2011

You Know Who Hates Rick Perry? Trial Lawyers, That's Who.

Via Lachlan Markay

In politics, having the right enemies can be as, if not more, important than having the right friends.

The governor has pushed through a string of tort reform laws, including a 2003 measure putting a monetary cap on non-economic damage awards. He passed another law in the most recent Texas legislative session, making it easier to dismiss some lawsuits and putting plaintiffs on the hook for legal costs in certain cases that are defeated or dismissed.

The campaign for tort reform in Texas began in the 1990s, well before Perry was governor, but the Republican can legitimately claim some credit for the results. It’s a story Perry proudly tells on the stump, casting himself as the man who mastered a legal system run amok and made Texas friendlier for business.

He lists tort reform among the core economic proposals of his presidential campaign and mentioned it in his announcement speech. On a Friday visit to a Florence, S.C., hospital, Perry recalled that “back in the ’80s and ’90s, Texas was a very litigious state,” but now: “We passed the most sweeping tort reform in 2003 and it still is the model in the nation.”

John Coale, a former trial lawyer who has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years, agreed that Texas had once been the “golden goose” for plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“Now, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, where it’s a very bad place now,” Coale said.

“If Perry’s the nominee, the trial lawyers will come out of the woodwork to support Obama, where I don’t know that they would now,” he predicted. “Most of the guys I know don’t like [Obama], think he’s screwed up the economy or taken Bush’s bad economy and made it worse. But when your livelihood, your money’s on the line, it concentrates the mind.”

I've only seen a couple of Perry speeches so far but each time he's included a reference to his tort reform record in Texas as part of setting the conditions for economic growth.

While the instinct is a good one and gives you a sense of his approach to how the law should work, it's not clear to me if it's really an issue that plays at the national level. Most lawsuits are heard in state courts and under state laws. That's not something a big Tenth Amendment guy like Perry is likely to try and mess with even if he could (and it's far from clear he could).

Still, it's a great talking point and annoys all the right people so as far as the primary goes at least...point to Perry.


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posted by DrewM. at 12:19 PM

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