The two frontrunners du jour for the GOP presidential nomination have similar views on a number of issues. But not, surprisingly, on one important issue anymore.
While former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney favors the idea of curtailing the civil rights of citizens, Newt Gingrich, contrarily, is the latest of the GOP contenders to eschew the granite-carved, long-held goal of conservatives that favors mandatory tort reforms. In fact, the thrice-married former Speaker of the House joins Texas governor Rick Perry, pizza mogul Herman Cain and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum in the fight to prevent government from undermining of the protections of the 7th Amendment.
Part of the Bill of Rights, the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil cases.
The fact is, many conservatives understand the importance of the 7th Amendment and realize that tort reform would not only bail out bad actors, but also eliminate fundamental constitutional protections we hold as sacred in this country.
According to a recent statement by Mr. Gingrich, the founding fathers inserted this amendment into the Bill of Rights for a reason. “Conservatives understand,” Gingrich said, “that a civil jury trial is the ultimate check and balance against corporate and government intrusion.”
Concerns about the encroachment of tort reform on fundamental civil liberties and states’ rights, and the failure of tort reform to foster accountability and personal responsibility, explains why a number of leading conservative legal groups have begun to question the need for tort reform. Even hardcore conservatives like Andrew Cochran, Fred Thompson, Rand Paul and Justice Clarence Thomas have come out against tort reform.
What would be the real effect of tort reform? “Wrongdoers would not be held accountable,” Howard Raphaelson, partner in the New York-based civil justice law firm of Raphaelson/Levine said. “What’s more, victims would be penalized. And, taxpayers would be stuck with the bill.”
According to Raphaelson, when you grant amnesty to negligent corporations and careless doctors, taxpayers are forced to bailout their negligent conduct.
“Imagine someone is paralyzed by a defective product, a negligent doctor, or hospital,” Raphaelson explained. “Tort reform would deny the plaintiff justice by either excluding the plaintiff completely from the court system, or by limiting the recovery to only a portion of the victim’s actual financial needs. Were this to happen, the offender would be relieved of personal, (or corporate) responsibility, and the burdens of the malefactors would be borne by taxpayers in the form of Medicare, Medicaid and disability payments.
“The 7th Amendment is the lynch pin for all other constitutional rights,” Raphaelson added,” including religious freedom, 2nd Amendment rights, contractual rights, and others.
“You should ask yourself, ” he continued, “without the 7th Amendment what would a person’s remedy be if someone violated their constitutional rights to free speech, to religious freedom, to contract, etc.? These are civil laws that provide the party who was harmed with redress for their grievances. The 7th Amendment to the Constitution makes it possible for victims to take the guilty party to court. Ask yourself, what would happen if access to the courts was limited? Or if the laws became so lopsided that the average person could not gain access to civil justice? What would happen if powerful lobbyists controlled the courts like they control other branches of government? We need politicians – including the presidential contenders – to stand up for our fundamental constitutional rights. We need them to hold wrongdoers accountable.”
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