New Year, Old Tort Reform

I marvel at the Republican characterization of the Democratic Party as the party of big government, and Republican self characterization as the party of limited government. True, Republicans typically adopt libertarian rhetoric whereas Democrats openly seek solace in dirigisme, but even a cursory examination of American history proves beyond doubt that the Federal government, since at least the Civil War, has expanded regardless of who occupied the White House or Congress.  Even mainstream historians, for example, are finally beginning to admit that Herbert Hoover massively intervened in the economy after the 1929 stock-market crash. But, not to worry, the belief that Hoover was a do-nothing, laissez-faire purist will not die any time soon.

I bring up the dichotomy of Republican verbiage from its statist actions to illustrate the problem of tort reform.  For years now, Republicans have done an effective job of characterizing plaintiff lawyers as agents of the devil.  We are responsible for nearly every economic problem in America.  The usually sober Thomas Sowell believes that we are responsible for the practice of “defensive medicine” at the bedside and  “junk science” in the courtroom.   Of course, Sowell merely considers us “unscrupulous;” John Stossel considers us “parasites.”  Both would like to see Congress come in and remake the judicial system into something more Godly.  What they are transparently arguing for, however, is a massive transfer of power from the judiciary to the legislative and executive branches of government.

Oh, how Republicans love to argue that government is best when it is closest to the people and that one-size-fits-all central government is inherently unable to govern.  Except for the judiciary–the one branch of government in which ordinary citizens, as jurors, are involved in day-to-day  operations.  The judiciary comes up with too many decisions that make the elite uncomfortable, so something must be done.

My harangue was sparked by an article last year posted on the Heritage  Foundation website about how rudely the Illinois Supreme Court had treated its legislature’s tort reform.  Much like Georgia in 2005, Illinois had put a cap in 2006 on the amount of money a jury could award in medical malpractice cases for pain and suffering.   Much like the Georgia Supreme Court, the Illinois Supreme Court found the cap blatantly unconstitutional. After declaring the end of the world  in the highest of high dudgeon,  the article’s author mourns the probable death from plague of his fellow citizens, as doctors flee the “Land of Lincoln.”  Not really, but I didn’t exaggerate what this author had to say by very much.  Indeed, things must very bad in Illinois for someone to invoke the name of the Saint.

Glenn L. Goodhart, M.D., J.D.

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About Public Protection Lawyer

lawyer and physician
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