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Monday, July 28, 2008

Trial Lawyer Earmarks Hidden In U.S. Congressional Bills Exposed

A website was launched today which exposes a large number of litigation expanding provisions that have been slipped into legislation in U.S. Congressional bills.
Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills - the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending - and also in authorization bills.

Anti-protective orders, expansion of consumer related lawsuits, expansion of medical malpractice lawsuits, expansion of environmental lawsuits, tax break lawsuits, broadening maritime lawsuits and the list goes on and on of earmarks hidden away into congressional bills that are in the U.S. House right now.

The website was launched by U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) and it is called Trial Lawyer Earmarks. This site exposes dozens of earmarks all geared toward enhancing the ability to sue.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

When opening the site and clicking on the words "see the earmarks" it automatically shows the trial lawyer earmarks that are in bills that are being considered in the U.S. Congress.

By clicking a specific earmark, it then shows what bill the earmark has been inserted into and what the earmark would accomplish. Those listed on this site all pertain to trial lawyers and their ability to expand litigation.

(Click image to enlarge)

The site, as of now, shows 48 trial lawyer provisions currently pending in the 110th Congress that they are monitoring.

According to ILR President Lisa A. Rickard, "The plaintiffs' trial bar has found a pastime almost as enjoyable as filing lawsuits: convincing Congress to pass legislation allowing them to file more lawsuits. This legislative session, they have tucked trial lawyer 'earmarks' -- vehicles giving them greater opportunity to sue -- into a large number of bills now before Congress."

According to Rickard, the U.S. lawsuit system already costs the average American family $3,200 every year and she concludes by stating, "The deep pockets of the plaintiffs' trial bar have persuaded some members of Congress that America needs more lawsuits. In addition to fighting back against each individual earmark, we must also uproot the trial bar's stranglehold on this Congress in order to protect American businesses and families from the costs of more lawsuits."

These liability expanding earmarks are hidden in homeland security bills, farm bills, FDA reauthorization and telecom legislation, just to name a few.

Additionally, there are tax breaks that apply only to to trial lawyers inserted into tax and mortgage relief bills.

One specific example from the press release from PRNewswire for Journalists, states "Most notably, this includes a provision in the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), which would grant a $1.6 billion tax break to trial lawyers by changing the rules on how expenses incurred during the representation of a contingency fee client are deducted."

You can find out more about these earmarks at