Grassroot Perspective – July 9, 2003-Lawsuit Abuse; Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Texas; Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Louisiana; Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Mississippi; Public Power, Private Gain

article top

“Dick Rowland Image”

”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Lawsuit Abuse

Lawyers Rank Last in American Confidence

The June 1 issue of American Enterprise magazine carried the results of
a Harris Interactive poll that asked people how much confidence they
have in various American institutions. Not surprisingly, the U.S.
military came in first with a positive confidence rating of 62 percent.
Dead last — ranking 14th out of the 14 institutions included in the
questionnaire — were law firms, with only a 12 percent confidence
rating. The U.S. Supreme Court, on the other hand, ranked third, well
ahead of organized religion and television news. As reported in the
National Law Journal

– Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Texas

Last November, when Republicans took over the Texas legislature for the
first time in 130 years, tort reform’s time had finally come. With
Texas being long considered a “judicial hellhole” by American business
groups, the reforms enacted in early June promise some much-needed
relief for companies doing business in the Long Star State. The omnibus
bill covers everything from class-action certification and appeal bonds
to product liability and proportionate responsibility. The legislation
limits multidistrict litigation, ends venue shopping, and even includes
a modified version of “loser pays.” Next on the reformers’ agenda –
asbestos! From The Wall Street Journal and Houston Chronicle

– Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Louisiana

Last month a New Orleans personal injury lawyer agreed to a plea
bargain on charges he illegally paid “runners” some $200,000 to solicit
accident victims for his firm and then hid the payments from state and
federal officials. The lawyer, Curtis Cooney, Jr., further compounded
his problems by urging his secretary to lie to a grand jury about the
payments. The guilty plea was part of a four-year federal investigation
of personal injury lawyers that has resulted so far in more than 20
convictions. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune

– Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Mississippi

The ongoing federal grand jury probe into whether wealthy Mississippi
trial lawyers paid off loans for state judges in exchange for favorable
rulings is uncovering a tantalizing “web of connections.” At the center
of the web is Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, whose firm made more than $1
billion from the national tobacco settlement. He is former U.S. Senate
Majority Leader Trent Lott’s brother-in-law and has close ties to
Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore, who awarded Scruggs the
state’s tobacco litigation contract. The lead FBI agent on the probe
was suddenly reassigned to counter-terrorism duty outside of the
country when he questioned the cozy links among the three men. So far
no indictments have been handed down. From the Biloxi Sun-Herald

Above articles are quoted from the Heartland Institute Lawsuit Abuse
Fortnightly June 2003

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

– Public Power, Private Gain

IJ Report Documents 10,000-plus Eminent Domain Abuses Across U.S.

By Dana Berliner

Think your home is your castle?

Think again.

Most people don’t realize that the government often takes people’s
homes and businesses not for a public use, such as for a post office or
a police station, but for the benefit of private developers. For years,
the Institute for Justice has been saying this is a nationwide
epidemic, but whenever someone asked, “how often does this really
happen?” we had no answer. There is no official data on the use of
eminent domain for private parties, so we had to rely on examples.
That’s why for the past couple of years we have been working on a
report documenting just how often state and local governments across
the country use their eminent domain power for private benefit. We
added up the numbers from published news articles and court documents,
and the results were even worse than we suspected.

Over the past five years, governments have condemned or threatened more
than 10,000 homes, businesses, churches and private land for private
business development. More than 4,000 of these properties are currently
under threat of condemnation for private parties.

Among many examples, the report found that in the past five years,
governments have:

Condemned a family’s home so that the manager of a planned new golf
course could live in it; Evicted four elderly siblings from their home
of 60 years for a private industrial park;
Removed a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years supposedly to
expand a sewer plant, but actually gave her home to an auto dealership.
Private developers love eminent domain. By cozying up to local
bureaucrats, they can secure land on the cheap without the hassles of
negotiating with individual owners. And local officials get to trumpet
exciting projects promising new jobs and taxes. But because everyone’s
home or small business would generate more jobs or taxes as a big
business, no one’s land is safe.

Cities thus use eminent domain to favor large businesses over
mom-and-pop establishments, national chains over local businesses,
upscale condos over middle-class single-family homes, and
government-chosen projects over ones developed privately.

This was never supposed to happen.

The U.S. Constitution and every single state constitution limit eminent
domain to projects for “public use.” Most people understand “public
use” to mean things like highways, bridges and prisons-not a casino,
condominiums or a private office building. But for too long, courts
have failed to check the marriage of convenience between government and
developers, declaring “public use” to mean whatever politicians say it
means, no matter how blatantly private the project.

The epidemic of eminent domain abuse has claimed too many victims and
must be stopped. Until that day, no one’s American Dream will be safe
from the overreaching hand of government.

The report has earned very favorable coverage nationwide. As The New
York Sun editorialized, “‘New York is perhaps the worst state in the
country for eminent domain abuse.’ That is according to a report
released yesterday by the Castle Coalition, a project of the
libertarian Institute for Justice. It’s not hard to see why. In just
the last five years, New York has condemned small businesses on behalf
of the New York Stock Exchange, the New York Times, Home Depot, Costco,
and Stop & Shop.” As The Wall Street Journal “Bricks & Mortar”
columnist Dean Starkman noted, “The problem has been that while
economic-development takings occur from coast to coast, each occurs in
a vacuum. And the debate about the use of eminent domain as a
public-policy tool-and its civil-liberties implications-is impaired by
the lack of information. At least now, there’s some light on the
subject. Dana Berliner, a senior attorney for the Institute for
Justice, a Washington-based public-interest legal foundation, spent the
past two and a half years combing court records, local-government
documents, and, mostly, local-newspaper stories in a search for any
case of eminent domain used for economic development. The result is an
important and useful study: ‘Public Power, Private Gain’ covers the
five-year period from 1998 to 2002 and is intended to give at least
some idea of the frequency of the practice.”

In sheer numbers, the states with the worst record of abuse of
private-use takings are California, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan and
Ohio. The best states are Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, New
Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming, none of which had land
taken by eminent domain for private use.

Copies of Public Power, Private Gain are available online at the
Web site of the Castle Coalition (, an
organization created by the Institute for Justice to unite property
owners and activists fighting eminent domain abuse.

Dana Berliner is an IJ senior attorney.

Above article is quoted from the Institute for Justice Liberty & Law
June 2003

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

“If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of
Independence, it would have been worth while. … The beauty and cogency
of the preamble, reaching back to remotest antiquity and forward to an
indefinite future, have lifted the hearts of millions of men and will
continue to do so. … These words are more revolutionary than anything
written by Robespierre, Marx, or Lenin, more explosive than the atom, a
continual challenge to ourselves as well as an inspiration to the
oppressed of all the world.” — Samuel Eliot Morison

”’Edited by Richard O. Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, 1314 S. King Street, Suite 1163, Honolulu, HI 96814. Phone/fax is 808-591-9193, cell phone is 808-864-1776. Send him an email at:”’ ”’See the Web site at:”’