Personal Injury Lawyer Influence
Personal injury lawyers have enormous political clout because of the millions of dollars they spend every year supporting judges and legislators who are their allies. Through these cozy relationships they exert their influence in support of their narrow agenda: to pass laws that make it easier to file lawsuits and to block reforms that would curb lawsuit abuse. Many personal injury lawyers also use this influence to make (often undisclosed) arrangements with state attorneys general (AGs) to file lawsuits on behalf of a state in exchange for a hefty share of the winnings. Through these mutually beneficial relationships and using taxpayer money, state AGs and personal injury lawyers use litigation to regulate entire industries, often with very little benefit to state residents.
Personal injury lawyers use their massive political contributions to curry favors and block needed reforms.
- West Virginia AG Darrell McGraw went back on a promise to stop making “donations” to groups statewide from a pool of lawsuit settlement funds his office has kept instead of turning over to the state treasury. (“Critics talking as McGraw hands out $375,000 more,” West Virginia Record, March 8, 2007)
- The plaintiffs’ bar in Madison County provided 75 percent of the contributions to judicial campaigns between 1980 and 2002. In 2002, Judge Nicholas Byron received 81 percent of his donations from personal injury lawyers. That same year, Melissa Chapman collected a staggering 90 percent of her donations from personal injury lawyers in her successful campaign for the Fifth District Appellate Court. (Trial Lawyers, Inc.: Illinois, Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, 2006)
Personal injury lawyers make secret arrangements with state attorneys general to file more lawsuits and win more money.
- In early 2007, an Associated Press investigation revealed millions of dollars in undisclosed contracts between California AG Bill Lockyer and politically connected private lawyers and lobbyists. Among the improperly “hidden” contracts was a $2 million contract to a law firm that had donated to Lockyer's campaign. (“Millions in Contracts Hidden in Calif.” Associated Press, January 29, 2007)
- In 2006, West Virginia Attorney General McGraw “deputized” personal injury lawyers who contributed to his campaign to act as “special assistant attorneys general” and file lawsuits against a company that they were already suing privately – a move that put the defendants at an extremely unfair disadvantage. When the Attorney General’s actions were challenged in court he backed off and dismissed the case. (“Two firms sue McGraw over appointment of Special Assistant AGs” West Virginia Record, March 23, 2006)
- During the tobacco lawsuits and settlement in the 1990’s, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal signed contingency fee contracts with personal injury lawyer who were his friends and associates and who ultimately won $65 million in fees. (“The Nation’s Top Ten Worst State Attorneys General,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, January 24, 2007)