Blog: Today in Legal Reform
The Law Society Gazette reports on ILR President Lisa Rickard’s concerns that a proposed set of rules for UK litigation funders lacks the mandatory requirements that could prevent abuses. “These investors are completely profit-driven and not in it to bring access to justice,” said Rickard. “We don’t think a voluntary code will have any teeth or enforcement powers and lacks any built-in safeguards against wrongdoing.”
A federal judge declared a mistrial in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case against three defendants after the jury announced it was deadlocked, reports the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this week a jury acquitted two other defendants in the same case, which stemmed from an elaborate FBI sting involving the sale of arms and military equipment to the West African nation of Gabon.
Sid Salter at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger gives a rundown of the ongoing fight over the Mississippi attorney general’s use of outside counsel, recalling the influence that trial lawyers had on drafting the law that allows the AG to hire lawyers without input from the Legislature or the governor. Before he went to jail for bribing judges, trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs said the situation creates a “magic jurisdiction … where the judiciary is elected with verdict money [and] the trial lawyers have established relationships with the judges that are elected.”
ILR president Lisa Rickard comments on the Madison County asbestos docket, saying it “allows law firms to ‘harvest’ clients from throughout the country and ‘extort’ high-dollar settlements in a fast-paced environment that cripples a defendant's ability to prepare for trial,” reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kevin LaCroix at the D & O Diary offers a suggestion to curb the problems associated with follow-on derivative lawsuits that are filed shortly after a securities lawsuit is filed, presumably on the company’s behalf. He recommends that any derivative case should be stayed until the securities suit is over, which would allow the defendant company to focus on the securities suit.
The Ohio House has approved a bill that would require asbestos trust claimants to disclose if they have previously received payouts for asbestos exposure, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Supporters say the bill will help curb fraud by preventing plaintiffs from suing solvent companies after receiving a payout from a bankruptcy trust, which prematurely depletes the trust system set up to serve as a source of funding for asbestos victims.
ILR President Lisa Rickard spoke with Corporate Counsel about the legal reform priorities for 2012, indicating the organization will focus on overregulation, over-criminalization, the commercialization of litigation, and roadblocks to globalization.
ILR President Lisa Rickard is quoted by Reuters in a piece that covers recent efforts clarify the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, where federal judges are requiring prosecutors to build more thorough cases. Rickard was “encouraged that the courts are starting to provide more judicial oversight,” but warns that the boundaries of the FCPA are still vaguely defined.
Colorado is one the few states that views lawsuit loan companies as part of the lending industry and requires them to abide by state lending laws, but a court case in Denver is challenging the state’s definition, the Denver Post reports. ILR vice president Bryan Quigley says the practice of loaning money to plaintiffs “skews the legal process” and points to a recent case where a company wanted a $116,000 repayment for a $4,000 loan as an example of predatory lending.
Legal Newsline dissects the Madison County asbestos docket, finding that the jurisdiction has become a magnet for out-of-state cases due to a favorable jury pool, lucrative verdicts, and a ‘referral’ system where firms that recruit clients pass them off to other firms to actually try the cases. A negative spotlight has recently focused on Madison County after judge Barbara Crowder was removed from the asbestos docket for favoring plaintiffs’ law firms that donated to her campaign.