And in yet another example, the decisions in a handful of trial courts in New Jersey have caused the ranking of that state to drop significantly despite the efforts of Governor Corzine to block trial lawyer legislation from advancing through the legislature.
Several years ago I used the term “whack-a-mole” to describe the resiliency of the plaintiffs’ bar in finding creative ways to advance their lawsuit-centered business model. The notion is simple and effective: when you’re beat in one state, move to another one and set up shop. When one judge blocks your efforts, find another judge. When one legal theory doesn’t work, find (or invent) another.
A state that has a good legal environment today is not guaranteed that same good environment tomorrow absent constant vigilance and a statewide commitment to maintaining a fair system. Conversely, a state that is low in the rankings can improve, but it takes a broad, sustained focus on the issues. It takes an understanding that even with incremental improvements a state’s legal system will still be compared to its neighbors. Indeed, in our increasingly global business environment, what happens in California can easily affect Florida or Virginia or Louisiana.
Our 2008 lawsuit climate rankings provide decisionmakers a detailed opportunity to understand how their state’s civil justice system stacks up against the others. But those who are interested in creating and sustaining a quality, fair legal climate will understand that legal reform is not a “check the box” activity. It is like a garden that must constantly be weeded, watered and pruned in order to remain fruitful and attractive.
Lisa A. Rickard serves as president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), where she provides strategic leadership to ILR's comprehensive program aimed at changing the legal culture that has resulted in our nation's litigation explosion.