Multinational Monitor

MAR/APR 2005
VOL 26 No. 3


Chamber of Horrors: The US Chamber of Commerce Leads the Campaign to Eviscerate Victims' Rights to Sue
by Emily Gottlieb

Winning the White House in the "Lawsuit Lottery:" The Bush-Rove Ticket to Power
by Andrew Wheat

Unfair Competition: Big Business Guts California's Landmark Consumer Protection Law
by Carmen Balber

Unequal Justice: The Hidden Gendered Impact of "Tort Reform"
by Darshana Patel

Junk Food's Health Crusade: How Ronald McDonald Became a Health Ambassador, and Other Stories
by Michele Simon

Pulping Cambodia: Asia Pulp & Paper and the Threat to Cambodia's Forests
by Luke Reynolds

Terror as Anti-Union Strategy: The Violent Suppression of Labor Rights in Colombia
by Anastasia Moloney


Smoking Guns and the Law: Litigation and the Humbling of Big Tobacco
an interview with Richard Daynard


Letters to the Editor

Behind the Lines

Bringing Justice to Big Business

The Front
The Wolfowitz Card - Australia's Oil Grab

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Taking Away Victim's Rights

Multinational Monitor

Chamber of Horrors: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Leads the Campaign to Eviscerate Victims' Rights to Sue

by Emily Gottlieb

In 1994, officials from the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) told the group’s annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. that since substantial “tort reforms” were passed in Texas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Arizona and Michigan in 1993, their next step would be to work on judicial elections.

By 1998, this effort had become a major activity for ATRA. Concerned by the number of “tort reforms” — laws to reduce victims’ rights to sue wrongdoers — being struck down by state courts, ATRA General Counsel Victor Schwartz said that since amending constitutions and enacting federal legislation were not viable options, Big Business’ only option was to influence judicial elections.

A decade later, this “tort reform” electoral movement is in high gear and has substantially remade state judiciaries and state law. MORE>>

Winning the White House in the "Lawsuit Lottery:" The Bush-Rove Ticket to Power

By Andrew Wheat

The “lawsuit lottery’s” all-time greatest winners are George W. Bush and chief Bush strategist Karl Rove, who purchased their first winning ticket together in Texas in 1994. The four issues that Rove had candidate Bush hammer in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial race were education, welfare, juvenile crime and civil justice. Reporters James Moore and Wayne Slater, in their book on Rove, Bush’s Brain, write that education and juvenile crime already were hot political issues in Texas. Bush added welfare reform. “Later, we added tort reform,” the book quotes Rove saying. “I sort of talked him into that one.”

Rove “talked him into that one” because the other three issues were not cash cows that could finance the exorbitant campaign needed to beat Governor Ann Richards. In contrast, Rove had learned that “tort reform” — limits on victims’ rights to sue corporations and other wrongdoers for compensation in the civil justice system — is a Republican treasure trove. MORE>>

Unfair Competition: Big Business Succeeds in Gutting California's Landmark Consumer Protection Law

By Carmen Balber

California’s Unfair Competition Law was the strongest consumer protection law of its kind in the United States when Proposition 64 drastically scaled it back this past November. The initiative, which passed by a 59-to-41 percent margin, eliminated the ability of any Californian to use the Unfair Competition Law to prevent unfair, deceptive or illegal acts by a business. The law now requires an individual to have personally lost “money or property” in order to bring a company to court and stop an unfair practice. Proposition 64 also did away with suits to prevent any harm that is not measured in dollars, like loss of health, environmental damage or consumer deception.

One key question about the measure has not been answered: How were California voters convinced to cede these protections at the ballot? MORE>>

Unequal Justice: The Hidden Gendered Impact of "Tort Reform"

By Darshana Patel

A cap on medical malpractice lawsuits is just one among many changes to the U.S. civil justice system that the Bush administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are trying to engineer. This “tort reform” agenda [a tort is an act of negligence or wrongdoing, and torts is the area of law by which victims of wrongdoing can sue perpetrators for compensation] has long been a top priority of Big Business, which does not want to be held liable for the wrongs it commits and particularly dislikes the unpredictability inherent in decision-making by juries. In February, Congress passed and President Bush signed a bill to change the way class actions — suits brought by groups of victims — are handled.

Lost among the propaganda campaign for “tort reform” waged by Big Business and its allies, say civil justice and women’s groups, is the way in which these proposed — and increasingly implemented — changes in the justice system would discriminate against women like Sherry Keller. MORE>>



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