Sunday, June 17, 2007

Calling Tort Reform What It Is!

What follows are excerpts from a recent column written by Ken Connor, former President of the Family Research Council:


Thompson, Torts, and True Conservatism

By Ken Connor
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fred Thompson ... is being assailed by Republican bluebloods ...(because) ... He was once a (gasp!) trial lawyer who supports equal justice for all.

The "bluebloods" are Republican business elites who invest in candidates as a cost of doing business, expecting to get a return on their investment if they pick winning candidates. Usually that "return" comes in the form of tax breaks, financial subsidies, or limited accountability for wrong doing. Bluebloods advocate imposing "caps" or artificial limits on the amounts that victims can recover for damages suffered at the hands of wrongdoers who engage in negligent or reckless conduct. While there is no way to limit the extent of the harm that a wrongdoer may inflict, bluebloods want to limit the amount wrongdoers would be required to pay for the damage they cause. They prefer "caps" rather than being required to pay awards commensurate with the damages actually suffered. ... Bluebloods use the euphemism tort "reform" to conceal the true nature of their agenda. A more accurate description of what they are seeking is tort "deform."

... At its root, therefore, the word "tort" denotes something that is twisted, and needs to be put straight. Bluebloods maintain that conservatives should support their efforts to twist the civil justice system in their favor. In truth, their proposals represent little more than affirmative action programs for wrongdoers. ...

True conservatives understand that accountability and responsibility run hand in hand. Human nature is such that if wrongdoers are not held fully accountable for their wrongful acts, their wrongdoing will increase. As Ronald Reagan said, "If you subsidize something you get more of it"; nevertheless, subsidized wrongdoing is exactly what Republican bluebloods seek. While limitations on liability will likely increase the profitability of businesses engaging in wrongful conduct, such increases will come at the expense of those who are injured by such conduct.

Conservatives should not embrace an agenda that relieves wrongdoers of the consequences of their wrongdoing. Affirmative action for wrongdoers can hardly be described as a conservative approach to problem solving. Furthermore, Americans have historically rejected the idea of a "privileged class" that is allowed to operate under a different set of rules from everyone else. "Equality under the law" is a proud American tradition. Most Americans understand that when they act irresponsibly and put fellow citizens in harm's way, they will be held accountable for their conduct. There should be no exceptions for the rich and powerful. Rich or poor, big or small—accountability for the consequences of one's actions should be the norm for all members of a just society.

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC and a nationally recognized trial lawyer who represented Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case.

copyright 2007 The Salem Web Network


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