COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The American Tort Reform Association is a lobbying organization funded largely by corporations, insurors and business groups who believe the U.S. economic climate has been harmed by overzealous plaintiff lawyers and a legal system that is stacked to favor victims. It has also been concerned about state attorney generals who are becoming activists in the cause of consumer and stockholder rights, or cracking down on environmental and health hazards -- think lead paint -- through litigation. ATRA, as the group is widely known, is no friend to the plaintiff's bar.
And today, ATRA is out with a broadside aimed at state attorney generals who have been "hiring personal injury lawyers from the private sector to perform legal work for the state, and hundreds of millions of dollars in contingency fees are sometimes at stake." Sherman Joyce, ATRA's executive director, is pushing a national Transparency Code to expose how those contracts are handed out in all 50 states. Joyce outlined the code in a column for the the National Law Journal, and said there is too much secrecy in the selection process.
But he had praise for Ohio's Democratic Atty. Gen. Marc Dann. However, his kind words about Dann cannot be found on ATRA's Web site or in the National Law Journal column. The Daily Bellwether spotted them in a PR Newswire press release from ATRA that specifically cited Dann as a national leader in opening up the process of employing outside counsel. It was a campaign promise that Dann made while running for attorney general in 2006, and now he's gotten kudos from an unexpected corner for living up to his promise. Joyce said:
"Ohio already has one of the most robust public records laws in the nation, and Attorney General Marc Dann has voluntarily embraced the idea of competitive bidding. These are both examples that other states and AGs could follow and build on. If AGs are to be successful in pursuing the public interest, they must have the full confidence of the citizenry. Transparency and accountability are the foundations of such confidence."
ATRA says its Transparency Code "encompasses the good government principles of public disclosure, competitive bidding, oversight and fiscal accountability." A link to the press release that praises Dann is here.