Metro Chamber: Disavow Attorney Attacks | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Metro Chamber: Disavow Attorney Attacks

As part of our association with other city newsweeklies around the country, we run "BlogAds" on our website. The BlogAds system enables companies or organizations to make national ad buys and then, in some cases, target locales with specialized messages.

That happened this past week when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran an ad attacking the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association for changing its name to the Mississippi Association for Justice. (Something MTLA hasn't yet done.)

The ad's message is unfair—frivolous, even—particularly when you consider that (a) Mississippi already has gone through a comprehensive tort-reform battle, so these continued attacks on trial attorneys are childish, and (b) in a post-Katrina Mississippi, the need for trial attorneys has never been clearer.

Everybody loves to hate trial attorneys until they need one—just ask Sen. Trent Lott. When he turned to his brother-in-law Dickie Scruggs for help after Katrina, it was because a good lawyer can be an important check against an out-of-control insurance company.

Most trial attorneys are hard-working professionals who take cases on contingency, which means they must shoulder extraordinary expenses in the face of corporate firms that throw associates and paperwork in their way. The trial attorney' s goal is to win cases for people who can't afford the thousands of dollars it takes to fight an insurance company that denies their claim, a hospital that acts negligently or a nursing home that offers substandard care.

Sure, there are unsavory trial attorneys out there—just as there are insurance companies that deny legitimate claims and wrap people's lives in red tape.

The U.S. Chamber's attack site points to a "survey" that says Mississippi is ranked 49th in "legal fairness." That's odd. Remember when the Chamber said that tort reform and damage caps would fix all that?

They got their damage caps—so why are they still attacking trial attorneys? Because the U.S. Chamber is worried that, after Katrina, Mississippians are ready to vote out politicians who act like wholly owned subsidiaries of insurance companies. The result might be something "unbearableԗlike insurance reforms.

We call on the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce—historically in lockstep with the U.S. Chamber—to publicly distance itself from these attacks on the MTLA, particularly given the real issues of fairness and justice that thousands of Mississippians are still trying to sort out in the wake of Katrina. Mississippi needs to take a balanced and serious approach to true justice in its legal system. Throwing rocks on the playground won't solve anything.

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