( – promoted by DocHoc)
One has to wonder why investment bankers aren’t the state GOP’s villains du jour.
The greedy actions of Wall Street investment bankers in recent years has brought this country its biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, but here in Oklahoma the Republican mob says the bad guys are lawyers and their clients.
The Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee is slated to consider House Bill 1602, which would cap contingency fees for the state’s attorneys. This is an unneeded, ideological bill that could prevent people from recovering damages in legal cases because they can’t afford to hire a lawyer or can’t find a lawyer to take their case.
The bill, if eventually approved, would create a ballot measure asking voters to cap attorney contingency fees at 33 percent for the first $1 million recovered and 20 percent for damages exceeding $1 million. Under the bill, the ballot measure would be presented to voters in the 2010 election.
In a contingency fee arrangement, lawyers only collect money from clients in certain cases if they are successful in suing for damages. In this arrangement, attorneys work for a percentage of the recovered damages. This allows people access to the court system because they might not be able to afford steep, upfront legal fees. The system also encourages lawyers to work diligently for their clients, who may have suffered serious injuries because of negligence.
HB 1602, sponsored by Dan Sullivan, a Tulsa Republican who is an attorney, is part of this year’s GOP legislative corporate amnesty initiative. Republicans are trying to limit the rights of people to recover damages from corporations and the amounts they or their attorneys might receive in a lawsuit.
Republicans use the bogus claim that there are too many frivolous lawsuits, which supposedly drive up the costs of doing business. Republicans often disengenuously focus on the high cost of medical malpractice insurance when they push for legal amnesty, but why should insurance companies make off with all the cash? Why not bring more regulation and oversight to the insurance industry to give physicians relief from high costs? Does anyone really think legal amnesty will drop insurance costs?
In the past, Gov. Brad Henry has vetoed corporate amnesty legislation, which is disingenuously called “tort reform” by some Republicans.
Those who oppose the bill include OKWatchdog.org, a consumer and patient advocacy group. The executive director of the organization is Jeff Raymond.
“Contingency fees are the only way the average citizen can afford to take on a large corporation with virtually unlimited resources and a staff of attorneys,” Raymond recently told The Journal Record, which published a Feb. 4 story that discussed the issue. “While we support Oklahomans having the ultimate say in the direction of the civil justice system, it remains to be seen whether this bad idea should go to a vote of the people.”
Another Republican bill, Senate Joint Resolution 17, sponsored by Patrick Anderson (R-Enid), would create a ballot measure asking Oklahomans to cap noneconomic lawsuits damages at $300,000. The measure, if eventually approved, would deny ordinary people access to the courts and fail to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions.
The larger picture is that Republicans here are still pushing the failed ideas and ideology of the neoconservative agenda as the state economy begins to tank. Why don’t the Republican majorities in the House and Senate push for laws to protect Oklahomans from greedy and sometimes corrupt investment bankers? These are the real thieves and scoundrels, not people trying to find an attorney to take their case.
This was initially posted on Okie Funk.–Kurt Hochenauer