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Tag Archives: Chamber of Commerce

The battle of the law-cumentaries

Just weeks after the HBO debut of a film setting out to debunk what it calls the myths of tort reform, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform is set to release its own film examining what it calls America’s “lawsuit industry,” which it says is filled with “greed and corruption.”

The ILR-backed film, called “InJustice,” premiers on the ReelzChannel Monday night.

Last month the documentary “Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served?” was screened in Washington for an audience that included members of Congress and civil justice advocates before it debuted on the cable network. That film, by trial lawyer-turned-documentarian Susan Saladoff, took aim squarely at tort reform advocates – including the Chamber – who back  mandatory arbitration clauses, state law damage caps and judicial election systems that civil justice advocates say protect businesses at the expense of consumers, workers and ordinary Americans.

But the film drew sharp criticisms from business groups and tort reform advocates who said it portrayed a skewed vision of the nation’s litigation system and painted trial attorneys as heroes.

According to the Chamber’s blog ChamberPost, filmmaker approached the ILR two years ago with an idea of making a film on haw the “lawsuit industry” has “transformed the practice of law from a calling into a multi-billion dollar a year business.”

Chamber, AAJ battle again over story on proposed tax break

There are a few things in life that one can always rely on  – like death, taxes, and the complete lack of love lost between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the trial lawyers group the American Association for Justice.

That lack of love was demonstrated again this week with a story on a Chamber-backed newswire accusing AAJ officials of boasting about a special trial lawyers’ tax break that would be issued by the Treasury Department.

The story in Legal Newsline, which is owned by the Chamber, quoted John Bowman, the Director of Federal Relations for the AAJ, speaking to a delegate at a meeting in Canada. Bowman reportedly said that an administrative order from the Treasury would amend tax law to allow attorneys to deduct certain expenses and costs in contingency fee cases in the year they were incurred. Current law requires lawyers to wait until the case is resolved, which could happen years later.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter that would have done the same thing after being introduced last year.

Last year, Legal Newslaine ran a story about that legislation, citing another AAJ official’s comment that the bill would fail unless it was “tucked into” another larger legislative package.

AAJ shot back, calling that story “inaccurate and purposefully misleading,” and adding that the bill was designed to “treat the trial attorney profession like every other small business in this country, allowing them to deduct their expenses in the year incurred.”

The latest proposed Treasury Department plan has now drawn the scorn the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board, which ran a piece today citing the Legal Newsline and blasting the proposed tax change. “And Democrats wonder why their performance in office has inspired a tea party revolt,” the editorial says of the plan.

Monday status conference: A fight during recess

Last week, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court, Deputy Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal urged the justices to find that the National Labor Relations Board had authority to act and issue opinions with only two members – as it had for more than two years.

The fact that the Senate had held up the confirmation of President Obama’s three nominees to the board – and had in fact blocked one of the candidates, union attorney Craig Becker, with a failed cloture vote – “underscores the general contentious nature of the appointment process with respect to this set of issues,” Katyal told the justices.

“And the recess appointment power doesn’t work why?” asked Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

Over the weekend Obama showed that the power does indeed work. With the Senate in recess for more than three days, Obama made 15 recess appointments to administration posts – including Becker to the NLRB.

Late last week Republican senators as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Obama not the use the recess appointment power for Becker. They argued that Becker represented a campaign promise made by Obama to unions during the election, and that Becker would essentially push to authorize “card check” unionizations in worplaces after legislation that would have done so lost steam in Congress. Much more on the Becker brouhaha here from Lawyers USA.

Meanwhile oral arguments continue today at the Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments in cases involving double jeopardy and securities law.

In other news:

Predicting Stevens’ replacement: Since no one else is waiting for Justice John Paul Stevens to actually retire before opining about who might replace him, we won’t either. (Lawyers USA)

Gun law ok’d: A a federal court has upheld the gun regulations enacted in the District of Columbia after the Supreme Court’s ruling in D.C. v. Heller. (The BLT Blog)

Money talk: What’s the impact of the latest federal court ruling rejecting a constitutional challenge by the Republican Party to some federal limits on donations to political parties? SCOTUSblog explains. (SCOTUSblog)

Brouhaha over Becker’s NLRB nomination

While nominees to the National Labor Relations Board have historically faced a low key and drama-free road to confirmation, recently it seems nothing involving the NLRB is without controversy. And the nomination of Craig Becker, President Barack Obama’s pick to fill one the three vacancies on the Board, is no exception.

As you know, the normally five-member board has operated with only two members for more than two years. And the validity of opinions the Board has issued since January 2008 are now in question, and the Supreme Court is set to decide if the rulings were made by a properly constituted quorum.

President Bush’s nominees to fill the vacancies stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And now Becker’s nomination is facing strong opposition by Republicans and business groups who say the former attorney for the Service Employees International Union and AFL-CIO would usher in anti-business policies.

As Becker appeared at a hearing held on his nomination yesterday – the first time in 17 years that a hearing has been called to vet a NLRB nominee – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted Senate Democrats, accusing them of trying to jam Becker’s nomination through before the Senate’s newest Republican, Sen.-elect Scott Brown, is seated.

“For the first time since 1993, the Chamber is taking the unusual step of opposing a nominee to the NLRB,” said a statement from Randel K. Johnson, the Chamber’s vice president for Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits. “It would be an egregious mistake and would set a dangerous precedent for the Senate to push this nomination through during a lame-duck period. The NLRB has the ability to unduly increase union power and leverage it without intervention by Congress. Confirming Becker will tilt the balance in labor law dramatically in favor of union special interests.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate committee vetting Becker’s nomination, said Democrats have given GOP members what they want.

“We are here, today, to take the rather unusual step of holding a hearing on a nominee for the National Labor Relations Board,” Harkin said at the hearing.  “It has not been the standard practice of this Committee to hold hearings on NLRB nominations…However, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have requested a hearing.  And while I am reluctant to further prolong the consideration of an obviously well-qualified nominee, I was willing to accommodate that request because I think the work of the NLRB is tremendously important and deserves this Committee’s attention.”

But Republicans including Sen. John McCain grilled Becker over issues such as card check elections and how Becker would handle cases involving the unions he worked for in the past.

Becker said he would rule fairly and recuse himself when necessary. “I will abide, Sen. McCain, with the terms of that pledge scrupulously, and as I indicated, if any other matters come up outside of the scope of that pledge where any party might think that I might not be impartial, I will consider the matter…. and if necessary recuse myself from those cases,” he said.

“That’s not good enough,” McCain replied.

Gov. Bush: Med-mal reform requires ‘big boy pants’

“Reforming medical malpractice laws is not for the faint of heart. [In Florida] it was butt ugly, as they say back home. … Put on your big boy pants for this one. I still have scar tissue on my forehead from banging and banging my head against the wall to get this done.”

~ Former Gov. Jeb Bush speaking Wednesday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform’s annual reform summit.