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Friday morning docket: Club Med-mal

Yesterday the White House gave us a few more details about the administration’s proposed state-level medical malpractice reform demonstration programs. People are reacting, but no one on either side of the debate seems particularly excited about it.

American Association of Justice President Anthony Tarricone said the programs could hurt victims of medical negligence. “Forty-six states have already enacted tort reform and health care costs continue to hurt the pocketbooks of American families,” he said in a statement yesterday.  “Because of these tort reforms, patients injured through no fault of their own are often unable to seek justice.”

The Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, which was strongly pushed for the health care reform package to include some tort reform measure such as health courts, also doesn’t like the plan all that much. “While we are encouraged that the Obama Administration has made medical liability reform part of their overall health care package, the $25 million state grant program announced today amounts to about 1-40,000th of one percent of the cost of a one trillion dollar health care bill,” said Lisa A. Rickard, ILR’s president. “Studies have shown that meaningful medical malpractice reform can save from $120 billion to as much as $500 billion over a decade. But a small medical liability grant program will not be effective, and will preserve the status quo when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits.”

Meanwhile, one potential method of med-mal reform – requiring a malpractice lawsuits to be accompanied by a certificate of merit by a medical professional – was thrown out in one state yesterday. The Washington Supreme Court held that the requirement impedes access to the courts and violates the state constitution’s separation of powers clause.

In other news,

Senate’s med-mal plan: Sen. Max Baucus’ health care reform plan contains no concrete tort reform mandates, but the proposal would encourage Congress to “consider establishing a state … program to evaluate alternatives to the current civil litigation system.” (Lawyers USA)

If you don’t do the crime, you don’t have to do the time: Violent crimes in the United States fell in 2008, and so did incarceration rates. The Federal Bureau of Investigation sees a connection there. (Lawyers USA)

One less legal problem for former AG: A federal judge dismissed a civil lawsuit against former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, rejecting job applicants’ claim of being blacklisted from the Bush administration’s Justice Department based on their ideology. (WaPo)

Constitution Day trip. Retired Justice David Souter celebrated Constitution Day – which was also his birthday – talking constitutional law at a Harvard panel. (Harvard Crimson) (See the archived webcast of the event here)

Filling a vacancy: The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a measure that will allow Gov. Deval Patrick to temporarily fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s death. It could become law as early as next week. (Boston Herald)

Birther defeat: A lawsuit by a vocal leader of a group claiming President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. was thrown out of court this week. (KCAL, CBS News)

Less money, more problems: A federal judge in California is resigning to go into private practice, saying his judicial salary is too low to let him support his seven children. The move draws attention to an issue that has been a priority for Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who has urged an increase in judicial salaries each year since being seated on the High Court. (Reuters)

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