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Latest Tort Reform Bill Infringes on Judicial & Religious Liberty

The 7th Amendment Advocate blog remains a good source of comprehensive, clear-sighted analysis of the tort reform debate. Last week a new post outlined the details of the latest misguided legislation aimed at taking away the rights of negligence victims.

The bill known as H.R. 966-or the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA)-essentially attempts to toughen rules of federal Civil Procedure, which would create disincentives to filing an Illinois injury lawsuit and add judicial sanctions on attorneys. The basics of the bill are similar to legislation that passed the U.S. House in 2005 but failed to be accepted by the Senate.

More specifically, LARA has three major elements. The first involves making judicial sanctions on attorneys mandatory rather than discretionary. Second, judicial sanctions would be deemed a “main objective” of the rule instead of mere deterrence. Finally, the bill would remove the “safe harbor” provision of the current rules, which allows an attorney the possibility of withdrawing a suit without exposure to sanctions. All of these measures are essentially an attempt to “scare” lawyers from brining certain cases forward for consideration.

The logical reasons to oppose the legislation remain potent. As with all tort reform bills, the law is an unwarranted intrusion into the civil justice system; it would only further chip away at the rights given to the judicial branch in our split governmental system. It is clear that the nation’s Founders intended the courtroom to be a fair, separate sphere of justice immune for overreach by the legislative branch.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the rule changes regarding lawyer sanctions would likely have the effect of squelching certain types of meritorious claims. Those include expected categories, like Illinois personal injury lawsuits. But the problematic effects are actually seen most notably in lawsuits alleging infringement of religious liberty. Statistics indicate that there has been a clear decrease in the number of suits brought forward to uphold the rights of citizen’s religious freedom when changes like these are enacted.

Our Chicago injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti stand by our commitment to ensuring that patient rights are protected. Our attorneys believe in the basic fairness of allowing our legal system to work as it should, with judges and juries hearing these disputes and deciding the appropriate course of action. A legislative decision that handcuffs the legal system’s ability to handle these cases does nothing but take away rights of suffering victims.

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