Access to Justice Coalition
Alliance for Justice announces the formation of a national coalition of organizations and grassroots networks committed to taking action to protect our civil justice system. This coalition provides an institutional framework for groups that represent people who have sought justice through the courts – organizations that understand the importance of having a civil court system that allows average people to defend their rights. The coalition will bring them together, adding the strength of numbers to each member's message, and carrying those messages to policy-makers and the press.
The courts stand in defense of our basic constitutional rights and freedoms. Every time someone succeeds in reducing our ability to go to court, we've lost a way to hold business and government accountable.
What will happen if the advocates of restricting citizen access to the courts have their way? More corporations will focus solely on the bottom line, with little or no concern about product safety or being held responsible for negligent decisions. No wonder drug companies, the insurance industry, physician groups and other powerful corporate interests are lobbying so hard to weaken the system.
In 2005, corporate America was represented by their high-priced trade associations and lobbyists in Washington. They spent millions of dollars and managed to pass ill-conceived legislation eliminating consumer class action lawsuits brought in state courts. They managed to rewrite the nation's bankruptcy laws to favor the interests of banks and credit card companies over ordinary Americans.
In the first six months of 2006 alone, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $14.3 million on lobbying – much of it on bills to restrict citizen access to the courts. And in the last election cycle, they spent $30 million to influence judicial elections in states all over the country.
In other areas – the environment, medical injury, product liability, and workers rights – big companies are spending millions to legislate away the public's right to seek justice before a judge and a jury.
They've created the myth of excessive litigation – that there are too many "frivolous lawsuits." It isn't true. Since 1985, federal tort litigation has declined, with only 2 percent of all federal tort cases going to trial. Also, state tort litigation has dropped by 10 percent in the last ten years with only 5.2 percent of state tort cases going to trial.
Furthermore, judges have the power to dismiss frivolous lawsuits outright and they frequently use it. Judges also have the ability to reduce awards they think are excessive.
Only through protecting citizen access to the courts can average people defend themselves and hold powerful corporate interests accountable.
We want to protect those rights for all citizens.
For more information, or to join this coalition, email us here.