More tortious twists for the tort bar

Opinion Journal:

The barons of the tort bar must have thought 2007 would be a very good year: Some of their biggest cases (Katrina, Enron) were set to pay out, and a Democratic Congress meant no more worries about legal reform. Talk about reversal of fortune: As the year ends, we are witnessing nothing short of the dismantling of what are alleged to be major tort criminal enterprises.

Bill Lerach, the king of class actions, stands disgraced as an admitted felon. His former partners at Milberg Weiss face trial for being part of the same kickback scheme as Lerach. Federal prosecutors continue to pursue a criminal probe into asbestos and silicosis litigation fraud. And now comes the indictment of Mississippi tort legend Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who is trying to soak insurance companies the way he once did Big Tobacco.

On Wednesday, Mr. Scruggs and four cohorts were indicted for trying to bribe a state judge in exchange for favorable rulings. The indictment reads like something out of a bad John Grisham novel, complete with piles of cash delivered secretly and wiretapped conversations featuring phrases like "bodies buried." The accused claim to be innocent, but our reading of the indictment is that they are going to need very good defense counsel.


The evidence seen so far appears to be "compelling" to use a popular phrase. That is not to say that attorneys can't spin their words to mean something else. As the Lerach case and a recent "silitosis" case in Texas demonstrate, the tort bar has become so arrogantly self righteous that it acts as if the rules for mere mortals do not apply to them. Untold wealth from persuading poor people on a jury to stick it to a deep pocket defendant can lead to that kind of hubris.


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