Civil justice reform. The words don't come trippingly off the tongue. I was trained as a lawyer, and its hard for me to muster much excitement for the topic.
And yet, it's a critical issue for American businesses and particularly for innovative businesses like America's biopharmaceutical research companies, The toll of litigation - simply the time, money and effort that it takes for a modern business to contest lawsuits - can be enormous. Uncertainty over rules and jurisdictions can dampen new investment, especially by non-U.S. based firms.
All of which is to say that last week, Representatives Robert Goodlatte (R, VA) and Dan Boren (D, OK) inaugurated a new Congressional Civil Justice Caucus. Congressman Goodlatte explained the Caucus' objective this way: "Our nation's civil justice system has a direct impact on America's competitiveness in the global marketplace. Excessive and frivolous litigation and inefficient rules and procedures drain U.S. companies of desperately-needed resources and hinder job growth and innovation."
At the Caucus' inaugural meeting yesterday, Lawyers for Civil Justice, the Civil Justice Reform Group and the U.S. Chamber Institute for legal reform released an interesting paper, "The Litigation Cost Survey of Major Companies". It takes a hard look at the costs of civil litigation to America's competitiveness and economic prosperity.
It's pretty eye-opening and worth a look. And, while there are no silver bullets, we hope the Caucus will be looking into promoting policies that protect companies that operate in compliance with applicable federal law; support state tort reform initiatives; and help judges to better use the rules and case management tools to reduce frivolous lawsuits and burdensome discovery.