Guest Blogger: Darren McKinney, ATRA

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It’s that time of year again… and no, I’m not referring to the holidays.

My colleagues and I at the American Tort Reform Association bring you the 2011/2012 edition of ATRA’s annual Judicial Hellholes® report.  Every year, ATRA documents abuses of the civil justice system in jurisdictions that are the most unfair and out-of-balance in the nation.  While elsewhere it is a time to be merry, the story is more “bah humbug” when it comes to getting a fair trial in these courts.

What characterizes a Judicial Hellhole?  Take the example of this year’s number one ranked Hellhole: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Courts in this state acknowledged that “forum shopping” is a common practice (and some judges even promote it).  This means plaintiffs can “shop” their cases to find the most favorable venue. According to court statistics and census data, Philadelphia, with its Complex Litigation Center and often “plaintiff friendly jury pools,” has nearly twice the litigation per capita of other Pennsylvania counties.

Take a look other locations that topped this year’s list:
• California
• West Virginia
• South Florida
• Madison and St. Clair Counties, Illinois
• New York City and Albany, New York
• Clark County, Nevada
• McLean County, Illinois

Despite its title, the 2011/2012 Judicial Hellholes report does include a few tidings of joy.  This year’s expanded “Points of Light” section celebrates a record year for legislative tort reforms enacted in the states.  ATRA president Tiger Joyce explained why these reforms are more important than ever:  “As anemic economic growth and high unemployment continue to plague much of the country, many governors and state legislators were determined to make their states more competitive and attractive to employers.”  We can only hope that policymakers in all Judicial Hellholes states take note and similarly work to clean up their civil courts before next year’s report notes who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

Looking for some holiday reading?  Full text of the Judicial Hellholes report and year-round updates are posted at JudicialHellholes.org.

Darren McKinney is the Director of Communications at the American Tort Reform Association.

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