The Path Forward
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
By Linda Lipsen, CEO, American Association for Justice
The Path Forward
My phone started ringing early the day after Election Day. I have spoken with so many trial lawyers from across the country who are feeling overwhelmed. What does this election mean for their values and their practices? What will be our path forward? What I know, having seen many different configurations of post-election challenges, is that we will be able to endure this difficult time if we work together.
Here are some initial thoughts to keep in mind:
Tort Reform was not an issue in this election. Donald Trump regularly uses the justice system to resolve his grievances. Ever since Ronald Reagan, every Republican nominee has touted tort reform as a central pillar of their legislative wish list. George W. Bush and people working in his administration spoke about trial lawyers and tort reform hundreds of times. Ads trashing what you all do for a living flooded the airwaves when George H.W. Bush ran for office, and again, when his son ran. But not this time. This fact alone does not mean that Republican leadership will not try and push tort reform—but it matters that it does not appear to be a priority for the president-elect.
We will get an added boost from new pro-civil-justice voices in the Senate: Tammy Duckworth [D-IL], Maggie Hassan [D-NH], Kamala Harris [D-CA], and Chris Van Hollen [D-MD]. We also gained in strength on the House side, as well. We must build on the excellent progress we made in the House in 2016, with our advocacy resulting in some of the strongest votes in recent years to block legislation from easily progressing to the Senate.
The public believes that everything is rigged – and this is one of our key messages: corporations and big industries have rigged the system against Americans; it’s trial lawyers who expose the truth about what’s really going on, and trial lawyers who hold these corporations accountable. And you can't rig a jury trial. This electorate was very anti-corporate. We will find surprising new allies in our fight to give individuals a fair shake.
AAJ has a strong track record of navigating successfully through the tort reform thicket. Each new challenge we face requires careful analysis and then a plan of action. There are many moving parts, but know we are putting together such a plan.
Our successes in the past have relied on a re-commitment by trial lawyers to work together. It is critical for AAJ members to be members of their state trial lawyer associations, and for state association members to be members of AAJ. Numbers will matter in the battles that lie ahead. Combining our smarts and resources will matter. We must be all in to preserve rights and remedies for injured workers, patients, and consumers.