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Chamber: trial lawyers’ weeds choke Congress

There is little love lost between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and plaintiffs’ attorneys, and that was evidenced yesterday at the annual summit of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.

Attendees of the summit’s received a handout depicting the Capitol building being strangled by the vines of what the Chamber called “trial lawyer earmarks.”

During one panel discussion, ILR’s president Lisa Rickard said the trial plaintiffs bar has launched a “stealth campaign,” inserting language in host of bills with an aim of expanding causes of action, fighting mandatory arbitration laws, and seeking tax breaks for lawsuits.

To illustrate the point, the group launched a website featuring an interactive version of the handout given to attendees.

Rickard said the measures are called earmarks because they are not stand-alone bills, but rather amendments tacked on to other measures. “Our problem here is that this isn’t just a fight in the Judiciary Committee,” Rickard said. “It is in everything.”

Meanwhile, trial lawyer group the American Association for Justice was launching its own offensive against the Chamber. AAJ CEO Jon Haber blasted Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue for bragging to summit attendees about the number of lawsuits the Chamber files each year on its own behalf while condemning other lawsuits as “frivolous.”

“U.S. Chamber obviously believes big corporations should have access to the legal system, but leave everyone else out to dry,” Haber said.  “For U.S. Chamber and big corporations, it’s one rule for us and one rule for the rest of America.”

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