Objection

Instapundit posts today on John Edwards:

An influential segment of the Republican Party hates trial lawyers — but not all Republicans, much less swing voters, feel the same way. Republicans who think that just calling someone a trial lawyer will swing voters against them are out of touch.

… and also quotes from Virginia Postrel:

John Edwards won’t carry the South, or even North Carolina, for John Kerry, but he may cost the Republicans some votes, as they misunderestimate him–and wildly overestimate the unpopularity of his profession.

I disagree. Yes, Edwards has (obviously) been effective in arguing before small, carefully-selected trial juries (I doubt very many of which were chosen for their analytical abilities), but both Reynolds and Postrel are ignoring the real blow-back from the jackpot jurisprudence exemplified by Edwards’ career.

It’s easy for a juror to side with a plaintiff’s lawyer and give a big award to the family of a sick kid–why not; that rich doctor has insurance, doesn’t he?–but it’s a different story at an electoral level when Bush and Cheney can point to all the communities where doctors, particularly OB-GYNs, have been forced to leave their practices because of skyrocketing malpractice insurance. It also won’t be very hard for the GOP to find businesses and factories that were forced to close shop and lay off everybody on the payroll after massive punitive judgements. Pointing out the percentages of those judgements that go to the plaintiff’s attorneys won’t exactly jibe with Edwards’ populist speechifying, either.

Reynolds and Postrel are probably right about dislike of trial lawyers being oversized among Republicans, but that’s a far cry from saying such dislike doesn’t exist in the general populace, particularly relative to people’s opinions about doctors. As I wrote quite a while back in comparing the two professions, the least reputable doctor in any given town is probably thought of more highly than the most successful lawyer. Given that Edwards made many of his millions suing doctors, pitting MD’s against JD’s could well be a strong political move for the GOP.

But only if the VP doesn’t go MIA and land us all on KP, of course.

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35 Responses to “Objection”

  1. Robert Says:

    Particularly if Senator Frist, as a doctor, makes the case for Bush. Plus he’s from neighboring Tennessee so it won’t be a North v. South thang

  2. lpdbw Says:

    I live in Madison County, Illinois, just East of St. Louis, which hasn’t elected a Republican to any major office in my lifetime, including the time the sherriff was indicted for running a gambling and prostitution ring. It is also the most recent home of scum-sucking, bottom feeding lawyers seeking, and getting, large judgments.

    We are losing several doctors each month due to malpractice insurance rates, which are due to the aforementioned lawyers.

    I believe that Kerry’s naming of Edwards may lead to a chance of Madison County actually breaking this trend. If the Republicans get smart, they will leverage the newspaper’s recent coverage of the MD’s flight from the area.

  3. David Says:

    I think it is particularly funny that we have professors of law claiming that JE being a lawyer is essentially an asset to JK.

    Well let me approach this question from the other side of the academy. I teach history of science in a community college (bet you never thought of a CC having science historians). I teach people who have lost jobs because of trial lawyers. Last year over 1000 doctors quit practice in this state over malpractice. I can always light up a classroom by talking about lawyers (law and science is always a good topic with my students). Many of my students have had “run ins” with lawyers and what shocks me is that not a single one of them like their own lawyers (I like my lawyer, by the way).

    We have a “free speech” board at our school that is loaded with livly debate. Nobody can make a statement on the board without somebody disagreeing with them. Well almosty nobody, last year somebody posted “First kill all the lawyers”, and nobody made an objection, rather many posted their own ugly lawyer story.

    But in the end VP’s don’t really matter, maybe he will pick up the lawyer vote, oh wait, lawyers vote democrat anyway.

  4. denise Says:

    People are very much of two minds about lawyers and law suits.

    People claim to dislike lawyers in general, but they believe their own lawyer is a decent upstanding person (after all, he is their champion).

    People also hate the reported proliferation of law suits, but if they hear a story of someone being wronged, they often advise taking legal action (“you ought to sue”) and get really offended when, as is often the case, there is simply no legal cause of action to address the situation.

  5. CaptainHolly Says:

    Excellent post.

    All this spin about lawyers not being that unpopular and John Edwards not being hurt by the association is hogwash. There is a tremendous resentment towards lawyers and the legal profession in the US, especially among Republicans.

    I heard a news story yesterday that said the US Chamber of Commerce is going to abandon its traditional political neutrality and endorse Bush because of Edwards. There is a tremendous resentment towards lawyers and the legal profession in the US. If anything, Edwards will guarantee a large GOP turnout on election day.

    And, as every political junkie knows, turnout is everything.

  6. Captain Holly Says:

    Ooops. I said the same thing twice.

    Nevertheless, it bears repeating: Don’t underestimate how much the average American despises lawyers. It WILL hurt Edwards.

  7. Dean Says:

    I very much think it depends on how the Dems (obviously) and the GOP spin this.

    Remember “Erin Brockovich”? Big hit movie? Remember what she did for a living? If the Dems manage to make themselves out as “we’re the guys saving you, the little people, from the big nasty corporations” then being a trial lawyer need not be a negative thing, regardless of the impact of said suits on business, doctors, etc.

    OTOH, if the GOP is able to get out the message “Why doesn’t your town have a doctor? Because the trial lawyers made it impossible to practice medicine,” then that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

    If ever there was a competition between narratives, this is going to be it—how to characterize lawyers and what they do.

    As for Denise’s (accurate) observation that “MY lawyer is good, the rest are scummy,” [which is also true for politicos, which is why incumbents usually win] again, the question is whether lawyers will be proselytizing among their clients. In addition, though, the question is whether the comparison might be to minorities: The old trope of “John is okay, but [fill in blank minority group] are usually bad” did not lead to voting for John, much less John’s fellow minority-members. Are lawyers like that, or are they like politicians?

  8. Mike M Says:

    The Dems have left a big opening for themselves to be attacked on healthcare…a big mistake if it was going to be one of their primary issues. Lawyers like Edwards have sucked billions out of the industry and stuck the tab with the consumer in the form of higher costs, skyrocketing insurance premiums, and decreased availability.

    Can you imagine Cheney just destroying Edwards on this issue in a debate? I don’t think it’s enough for Republicans to just say “trial lawyer”, but if they frame that in a health care context they can do extensive damage by simply pointing out well documented facts. I agree that Edward’s shine is more likely to turn into slickness by the election.

  9. Jessica's Well Says:

    The 2 Johns

    Will Collier at VodkaPundit has a great take on Edwards’ effect on voters that can no longer find a doctor in their town. Read it all. …the least reputable doctor in any given town is probably thought of more highly…

  10. Furious George Says:

    Or the media can spin it for the populace in this manner, ” John Kerry named John Edward as his running mate. Edwards is a SELF MADE MILLIONARE…”

    Heard that last night on CNN and my local news outlets. I guess they didn’t think “Made his millions as a trial lawyer specifically working on medical malpractice suits” sounded to appealing.

  11. Paul Says:

    Edwards is a SELF MADE MILLIONARE

    Well Don Corleone was a “self made millionaire” as well.

  12. sligobob Says:

    Anyone know which types of cases Edwards specialized in? Medical, vehicular, mystery charges on cell phone bills? I’m too lazy to do the research.

  13. Alex Knapp Says:

    Maybe if doctors were more concerned with, you know, stopping the malpractice that resulted in disease, disfigurement, disablement and death, rather than the “trial lawyer” who got justice for the injured individuals, health care costs would go down.

    Most doctors I know are overworked and only borderline competent.

  14. The Lonewacko Blog Says:

    An important specification: Edwards isn’t just a trial lawyer, he was a trial lawyer who specialized in personal injury cases. In other words, what’s called an “ambulance chaser.” You know, the guys who advertise on the sides of busses and the backs of phonebooks.

    Accidente? Llame ahora mismo 800-555-ABOGADO!

  15. A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure Says:

    THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

    The blogosphere punditry, and the news programs, and NPR all caution the Republicans about attacking Senator Edwards’ career as a trial lawyer. They all state, truthfully for the most part, that it was ineffective in the Democratic primary battle. I …

  16. lawguy Says:

    I made the case on my blog that the pick of edwards COULD really hurt Kerry in a State like PA which has a Med mal crisis on its hands. Kerry can NOT win without PA. This will be a Huge Campaign issue!

  17. darwin finch Says:

    The Med Mal issue doesn’t stand a chance against the Big Media’s portrayal of Edwards as a “people’s lawyer.”

    I can’t wait to hear how his dad “toiled in a mill” again! Oh baby that’s good!

  18. Sandy P Says:

    The GOP should start tallying up the asbestos figures. Schools could have used that money somewhere else.

    How about jobs lost?

    Didn’t I just read that legal fees could equal or top what 9/11 cost in lost business that day or something like that?

    ATLA grossed $40 billion in 2002, IIRC.

    Oh, there’s lots of fun to be had.

  19. adaplant Says:

    The implied link between trial lawyers and higher medical malpractice insurance premiums is a confidence game.

    Med Mal Insurance premiums are rising because US insurance companies undercharged doctors to increase market share, then had to drastically raise rates when their investment portfolios began hemmoraging money.

    That is not to say that large jury awards in medical malpractice cases in a specific jurisdiction play no part in the premiums charged doctors within that jurisdiction, but the broad implication that the real or largest or most significant reason doctors are leaving their practice in protest of high med mal insurance premiums is false.

  20. Pat Says:

    Here’s all you need to know about JE, the ambulance chaser:CNS. The impact of his kind on medicine is severe. Obgyns can’t afford $120K malpractice insurance. My wife’s obgyn is retiring at age 51 as a consequence. She can’t even volunteer at the local free clinic because they can’t get insurance. Edwards voted against exempting free clinics, BTW.

    Adaplants brief for trial lawyers is plain wrong. The proof of the linkage is the comparison between rates in California, where caps have been in place for a long time, and Ohio, where a bought-off Supreme Court ruled caps unconstitutional. See American Academy of Actuaries for more info.

  21. Trevor Saccucci Says:

    Alex Knapp and sligobob:

    What I wrote last night at least partially answers issues each of you has raised. Edwards’ particular specialty was suing doctors for allegedly causing cerebral palsy in babies. I didn’t research the topic in-depth, but it appears that cerebral palsy dosen’t correlate with quality of medical care; its actual causes appear to be poorly understood.

  22. pat Says:

    Actuaries link is a PDF file. Type “http://www.actuary.org/pdf/health/medmalp.pdf” in the address line.

  23. Slant Point Says:

    Edwards Scissorhands

    A great take on the effects of the type of lawyering Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards engaged in. Seems that suing doctors was a huge magic carpet ride to fame, and a vote away from the White House. But is there a doctor in the…

  24. Santhosh Valloppillil, MD Says:

    Go to the following link for more on John Edwards:

    http://rangelmd.com/2004_01_01_archive.html

    Scroll down to the Wed, Jan 21st entry.

    also check out the expose the NY Times did on Edward’s malpractice work on Jan 31st, 2004 in Section A, Page 1, Column 2. It’s required reading.

  25. denise Says:

    “My wife’s obgyn is retiring at age 51 as a consequence.”

    Your wife’s obgyn is retiring because, at age 51, he/she can afford to.

  26. Steve White Says:

    As a physician, I should resent Sen. Edwards and his tort law practice, but I don’t. I can tell you that the state boards of medicine are underfunded, undermanned and (ahem) underqualified, hospitals won’t confront their bad apples, national and local medical societies won’t deal with the problem of bad doctors, and the federal government whiffed badly on the concept of federal peer review of physicians (full disclosure: I was part of that). As one consequence, the trial lawyers are one of the only things going these days that review the work done by physicians (the other being HMO review panels).

    So as much as I’d like to dislike all the judgments won by trial lawyer Edwards, I’m forced to concede that people like him are necessary in that job.

    And that causes me to consider whether the average “Joe and Joan Sixpack” might not feel the same way. After all, they frequently are on the juries in these tort cases. If Sen. Edwards can appeal to them in a courtroom, he might be able to appeal to them on the campaign trial, er, trail. One shouldn’t misunderestimate Mr. Edwards’ ability to connect with the average person — after all, he had little else going for him in the primary season (certainly his Senate record wasn’t a big plus) and he finished a respectable second to Sen. Kerry.

    Some on the right are comparing Edwards to Dan Quayle. Quayle actually had more experience, but he ended up as the ultimate lightweight as vice-president. I’d hold the comparisons to Quayle for now. Sen. Edwards may end up ultimately being a weak pick. But he has some pluses, and I wouldn’t count him down.

  27. DaveP. Says:

    Denise: here’s hoping you have a blessed event sometime soon.

    Twins.

  28. kevino Says:

    The comments about OB/GYN doctors getting out of the Labor and Delivery business are right on target. Many OB/GYN doctors are getting out of deliveries and specializing in GYN and, some, are doing lots of abortions. This is an interesting trend.

    There are simply too many lawyers: it’s time to thin the herd. There is some hope in this. The first is doctors, particularly specialists, refusing to treat lawyers. Lawyers, of course, write the laws, so they are trying to write laws to prevent this. They may not succeed. The other trend is lawyers feeding on themselves by suing other lawyers for malpractice. I like this idea, too.

    My opinion on lawyers is the same as most nation polls: scum, right down with used car salesmen. As a person who has been forced to defend himself for years in a nasty divorce over every trivial thing, I have to hire mean, nasty lawyers to defend myself against the mean, nasty lawyers my ex sends against me. Every time I deal with the court system, it’s like bathing in sewage.

  29. Robert Says:

    The divided attitude toward lawyers is probably driven by the reality that only a minority makes big bucks chasing ambulances etc. Most are working professionals that provide a worthwhile service for their fee. Many others are dedicated idealists trying to make the world a better place and not getting rich.

    Then there are the ones like John Edwards.

    It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

  30. PointOfLaw Forum Says:

    Punditry on Edwards

    Rather devastating editorial in the Los Angeles Times — could it be Kinsley’s doing? “[A] lack of core beliefs could be a significant problem. The more frightening possibility, though, is that Edwards does have core beliefs, and that they are…

  31. blert Says:

    Having worked up close with quite a number of attorneys — representing myself — while they, naturally represented all the other players one trait stood out:

    While the clients uniformly believed that their man was solidly representing them in fact each and every attorney was screwing his clients and sacraficing their interest. While the clients thought that their man knew the relevant law — most couldn’t be troubled to read the many synopses relevant. The two most involved were feloniously corrupt ( demanding under the table $50,000 a bribe ) or stunningly incompetant and corrupt.
    Naturally, not one client wanted to hear any of such….
    Folks, its called client control.
    Trade publications in law emphasize the fees ‘earned’ by trial/ settlement attorneys. Actually trial lawyer is a misnomer since the true purpose is to cash in on settlements long before going to trial. The idea that these wealthy attorneys actually scored their money IN THE COURTROOM is false. You hit it big by getting a large volume of victims and settling out of court. Period.

  32. David Says:

    Do you know that the rate of C-sections in women has gone up by hundreds of percentage points since the 1970s? Guess what has happened to the rate of cerebral paulsy? It HAS STAYED THE SAME! We are cutting open women for nothing, while we line the pockets of parasitic lawyers who feed off of the greater society and buy off our political leaders. Just think of how many grossly sympathetic judges will be placed on the bench if John Edwards is VP? If any doctor in America casts a vote for the Kerry/Edwards ticket, he or she, is truly an idiot!

  33. Aporkalypse Says:

    I think you are correct that Bush and co. will attack trial lawyers in general to get at Edwards and push themselves as physician/health care advocates. I am a true moderate and voted for Clinton and abstained the last election but the addition of Edwards to Kerry’s ticket will keep me from voting Democratic and probably push me to vote for Bush. I also expect the voting records (in 2003 Kerry was the most liberal senator and Edwards was rated 4th) will hurt the ticket, which will be viewed as ultraliberal though this is slightly misleading.
    ————————
    I am a physician as well and I can attest for the general dislike physicians have for personal injury lawyers. I have some reservations about supporting caps on damages as I hate to think of what it will do to the rare few that have had gross negligence by their physician or other staff – drug/alcohol use on the job, removal of the wrong limb, etc. However, there is a true crisis in malpractice and physicians are fed up. Trial lawyers pretend they are only punishing the “bad doctors” but in reality 58% of all physicians have been sued and an obstetrician averages 2.6 lawsuits in career, neurosurgeons average more than 3 against them. Lawyers don’t go after bad doctors (note rural family physicians are hardly ever sued) but those that are easy targets or take care of those that are very ill. Every neurosurgeon in the DC metro has been sued, as has every neurologist in MS. The infamous Harvard study showed that while 97% of cases where negligence occurred never are brought to legal attention, in 80% of suits filed there was not only no negligence but no harm to the patient. Also, there was no correlation between negligence and jury verdict, only between extent of injury and jury verdict. Another piece of propaganda is that insurers are making a killing while manufacturing a crisis. If that were so, why have more than 3/4 of cos offering malpractice stopped doing so in the last 5 yrs? 43% of physicians are now insured by physician mutual cos born out of necessity, yet premiums continue to soar. In addition, only 9% of funds in malpractice pools were invested in stocks, most were in stable T-bills.
    ——————————————
    Believe it or not early retirement is preferable to barely breaking even in practice, a rarity for physicians that is becoming more common for OBs. However, far more have moved away or gone to gynecology-only practice, leaving gaps in places like MS where a 90 min drive is necessary to see an overbooked obstetrician.
    ———————————————
    Edwards will become an even bigger target, IMO, because so much of his fortune came from CP cases. CP is a tragic disease that has made easy targets of obstetricians, despite a complete lack of scientific evidence supporting this and, as already stated, that increasing the C-section rate 5-fold has had no impact in reducing CP. It is “junk science” and is a bad example of how personal injury attorneys opt for easy targets over true malpractice. Here’s an article about it: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPolitics.asp?Page=%5CPolitics%5Carchive%5C200401%5CPOL20040120a.html

  34. Marcus Says:

    It’s obvious to see that the insurance companies have done a great job selling everyone on the notion that lawyers and frivolous lawsuits are the reason that medical insurance is so high. They’ve yet to explain why with all the tort reform that has taken place thus far, insurance rates have skyrocketed, even though the amounts rewarded have decreased. I’m sure all you bright boys have an answer for that…hmmmm?

  35. David Says:

    I don’t know from what pipe you’re smoking, but look at california. Rates are reasonable due to caps. Texas just signed tort reform and insurance rates dropped 12% almost that day and are expected to go lower. And, as was already said, why are insurance companies moving out of med-mal? It is common sense (which I question in you) that if you run an insurance company that may have to pay some vermin $40 million dollars then you’re not going to write cheap insurance policies. Get a clue buddy.

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