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Why fighting judicial campaign money matters

In broken tort reform, buying elections, debunking the myth, ideology, medical malpractice, MI Supreme Court, propoganda, Uncategorized, undo tort reform on June 13, 2013 at 2:57 pm

In response to an article posted on Mother Jones (“Secret Money Is Now Swaying State Judicial Elections“), I posted the following:

There is a strong “Why should I care?” aspect to judicial buying.

Here is a scenario: you go to your local hospital with an emergency.  Through negligence or error you receive injurious care.  You wish to sue.  You shop your case to local attorneys first, but few

lawsuit lotto

lawsuit lotto (Photo credit: Shira Golding)

show even slight interest.  Small town lawyers need medical care too.  You call the big firm that funds the state’s hockey team.  Their nurse indicates that your case is “not a winner” and wishes you luck.

You find out that because of malpractice caps (put in place to protect innocent doctors from “runaway juries” and “slick lawyers”), counsel is hesitant to take any case that is not an outright slam dunk.  No gray area cases or ones which a jury could be swayed.  The cost of litigation is just too high.  Counsel has to find an exact equal physician to testify (their expert will be put on a mini trial within the trial) before the trial, submitting an Affidavit of Merit (these start at $1500 and go up, depending on the hired gun).  Then this expert must testify at trial, and already your case is running up quite a tab (a contingency fee for a capped case starts at $25,000–which sounds like a lot until you break it down into costs and fees).  So, Counsel picks only obvious winners.  Others get a smile and well wishes.  Merit has little bearing.
So, with the Statue of Limitations running (two years is typical so that physicians don’t have the “fear of litigation” looming over their heads), you push on, convinced that your bad doctor should be ferreted out of the system; that he should not be harming others like he harmed you.
In order to file your case, you will need to, six months in advance, file a Notice of Intent.  This gives the doctor six months (actually, it gives his insurance carrier–he will not have any direct contact with the case until called to testify–and few ever make it that far) to prepare.  Medical records are shared (HIPAA is automatically waived and your medical records are shipped around from insurance office to Defense Counsel to their own expert witness hired guns).  You give up all claims to HIPAA protections when you move to sue.
The six months pass and Defense (as they are now known–usually a well-healed firm from a large city on retainer by the insurance company) establishes their contingency case, reading to throw motions for dismissal as soon as the actual Complaint is files (the Notice of Intent is really a preview or draft of the Complaint).  The Complaint is filed and the Affidavit of Merit is supplied (if there is more than one defendant–say the physician and the hospital for lack of adequate oversight–the cost of this “pre-litigation requirement” moves into the tens of thousands).
Defense will immediately file a Motion to Dismiss, attacking the Affidavit of Merit (mini-trial even before the trial starts–Defense strategy is to have the case thrown out before a jury ever hears it).
Your small case, up against the best legal counsel in your state, will have many options for the judge to dismiss it.  The legislators in your state, fearing that “good doctors” will seek less litigious states, have enacted (often at the heading of the insurance lobby) “tort reforms” (think of “Hot Coffee”) that give the judge ample discretion to head Defense’s claims.
Elected judges, backed by a packed “tort reformed” legal structure, biases your legal claim from the beginning.  Upon appeal, additional panels of judges, also elected, will determine the validity of this structure.  An appeal to the State’s Supreme Court, also elected, will “rule” along party lines almost exclusively.
You are still injured, probably for life.  The bad doctor is still “practicing,” injuring others who, themselves, will have no legal recourse.
Insurance wins (the don’t lower their rates in accordance to the numbers of cases filed–only 1 in 8 of valid cases are even filed–and few of them make it to trial–fewer still result in a verdict for the injured party).
Bad doctors are not held accountable.
Injured patients will seek the medical care for their injuries available to them: most often at the public’s expense (Medicare/Medicaid).
And if the judges are elected, then the legislation that has also been “influenced” by campaign money, headless of legitimacy, stands.
Medical Malpractice is the 6th leading cause of death, ahead of victims of gun violence.
With a purchased judiciary, there is no justice.
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Buying the Judiciary

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Welcome Florida!

List of crossings of the Saint Lawrence River ...

More than Interstate 75 connects us now.

Welcome to the new age of bought judges and paid-for verdicts.  You are joining an elite group of deciders whose decisions are not as unbiased (at least in appearances) as the deciders would like you to believe.

I am referencing a Washington Post article (Super PACs, donors turn sights on judicial branch; most of which was outside the paywall).  In said article, Florida judges are related to have attended, much to their chagrin, a…wait for it…fundraiser.  It will not, though, influence their judgement.

Except that it will.

Michigan has been electing “non partisan” judges for years, with surprising partisan results–one of which Michigan’s courts ranks low to last in judicial impartiality measures.

So, we welcome Florida to the race to the bottom for average citizen justice.  Until we get a PAC to advocate for the upholding of our rights and interests, Joe Q. Public will just have to deal.

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Too Poor for Justice

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Too Poor To Sue

November 21, 2011

The Michigan Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, denied hearing a case that calls into question an indigent person’s right to sue for medical malpractice.  By doing so, the High Court has accepted the status quo where an individual’s Constitutional right to seek judicial redress for injuries will be denied if that person is too poor to pay the court entrance fee. Where the poor's plea's go to die

The case, Rebecca Williams Jackson v. Mecosta County Medical Center, et. al., went to the Michigan Supreme Court on August 30, 2011.  In a unanimous response, the court beat its average time by half in returning a terse “considered and denied” refusal to hear the case.  Where the average is 5 months, the Williams Jackson ruling was returned in a mere 83 days (counting weekends)—two and half months.  With that ruling, the High Court reaffirms that a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must submit with the complaint a doctor’s note stating that the case, in his view, has merit.  But it cannot be just any doctor, or just any note.  It must be a physician of equal qualifications (including minor certifications) who performs those duties at least half of his time.  This note also must be a sworn statement.  The logistics of obtaining such a note is daunting to an established firm with large on-hand cash (the going rate for such a statement runs from $1,500–$5,000, depending on speciality, for EACH defendant).  For an indigent litigant, this simple doctor’s note becomes an absolute barrier to accessing the court.  In a medical malpractice situation, suing is the only recourse to confront the physician and the only means of obtaining remediation for the injuries.  If this is taken away, then the injuries are compounded by injustice.

With the Court’s refusal to hear Williams Jackson’s case, they have institutionalised economic discrimination in the violation of one of the most basic rights a US citizen has—the right to justice.


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In Uncategorized on September 13, 2011 at 11:08 pm
Hall of Justice

Hall of Justice

With a picture of the Hall of Justice (Justice League anyone?), David P. Schock, PhD has compiled (and hopefully will continue to compile) a nice list of Court activities.

The latest deals with Justice Corrigan’s attempts to disgrace/censor Justice Weaver (both retired).  With a direct link to Justice Weaver (see her website here), Schock gives a nuanced account of a dissenting voice that is trying to be silenced.

Michigan supreme court races sure to draw big spenders, study says: Michigan Campaign Finance Network

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm
Seal of Michigan.
Image via Wikipedia

Michigan supreme court races sure to draw big spenders, study says: Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

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Must read: Midwest Democracy Network

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2010 at 10:21 pm

If you do not already subscribe, link-in or browse Midwest Democracy Network’s site, you must add it to your to-do list.  Offering a host of snippets about the courts and their workings, I find their coverage top-notch.

Yeah Team!

Social Networking Website

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Are you against big business or special interest buying their will in the courts?  Join us on the Social Network site: Reforming Tort Reform, the official social networking site of How to Buy the Michigan Courts blog.

Our Social Networking Site

Exerpt from The Medical Malpractice Myth, by Tom Baker, an excerpt

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Medical malpractice premiums are skyrocketing. “Closed” signs are sprouting on health clinic doors.

A good book

Doctors are leaving the field of medicine, and those who remain are practicing in fear and silence. Pregnant women cannot find obstetricians. Billions of dollars are wasted on defensive medicine. And angry doctors are marching on state capitols across the country.

All this is because medical malpractice litigation is exploding. Egged on by greedy lawyers, plaintiffs sue at the drop of a hat. Juries award eye-popping sums to undeserving claimants, leaving doctors, hospitals, and their insurance companies no choice but to pay huge ransoms for release from the clutches of the so-called “civil justice” system. Medical malpractice litigation is a sick joke, a roulette game rigged so that plaintiffs and their lawyers’ numbers come up all too often, and doctors and the honest people who pay in the end always lose.

This is the medical malpractice myth.

This fear has inspired legislative action on a nationwide scale three times in my lifetime. The first time was back in the mid-1970s. I remember sitting at the dinner table listening to my father report what he’d heard at his medical society meeting: “Medical malpractice insurance premiums are going through the roof. Frivolous litigation and runaway juries will drive doctors out of the profession.” The answer, the medical societies and their insurance companies said, was medical malpractice tort reform—to make it harder for misguided patients and their lawyers to sue.

What the medical societies did not tell my father, or almost anyone else, was that their own research showed that the real problem was too much medical malpractice, not too much litigation. In the mid-1970s the California Hospital and Medical Associations sponsored a study on medical malpractice that they expected would support their tort reform efforts. But, to their surprise and dismay, the study showed that medical malpractice injured tens of thousands of people every year—more than automobile and workplace accidents. The study also showed that, despite the rhetoric, most of the victims did not sue. But almost nobody heard about the study because the associations decided that these facts conflicted with their tort reform message.

via The Medical Malpractice Myth by Tom Baker, an excerpt (emphasis added).

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Who will be the first to recuse herself from the MI Supreme Court?

In Campaign Finance, Court recusal, Get the Ca$h, MI Supreme Court, Uncategorized, undo tort reform on November 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm

In response to our recent article on the newly-enabled ability to ask (and actually have the teeth to receive) a judge’s recusal, prompted the following explanation.  It was too good to leave unread in the comments (Video can be found here):

The first case to be decided under the new recusal rule may be People v Alexander Aceval, where the recusal of former Wayne County Circuit Judge/now Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is sought by the defense in a Motion filed 10-16-09.

Aceval’s attorneyDavid L. Moffitt alleges that a vertically integrated perjury conspiracyby Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Waterstone, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Drug Unit Chief Assistant Prosecutor Karen Plants, and two Inkster Police Officers, wrongfuly convicted Aceval with perjured testimony in 2006. APA Plants and Judge Waterstone made secret, ex-parte transcripts of their operation of the conspiracy, that unexpectedly subsequently came to light.

Moffitt has also requested the appointment of a temporary alternate Justice to break the tie, remand to a Court of Appeals Special Panel, and disclosure of the circumstances of Justice Corrigan’s recusal, which Moffitt alleged may have been deliberately sought by the perjury-conspirators to “heighten the hurdle,” i.e. needing 4 out of 6 instead of 4 out of 7 Justices, to grant the Application for Leave. Details of the case, media coverage, and briefs and transcripts, are available at davidlmoffitt.com.

Aceval’s Application For Leave To Appeal the conviction to the Michigan Supreme Court was denied 9-25-09 in a 3-3 deadlock, across “party lines,” with Justice Corrigan recusing herself to testify as a character witness in a potential future trial of pending criminal charges against Waterstone, Plants and the officers brought by the Michigan Attorney General arising out of Aceval’s case.

Upon rehearing, Moffitt has moved to disqualify Justice Hathaway, alleging that her ojectivity could reasonably be questioned where scrutiny of wrong-doing in Aceval’s case has moved to the highest levels of Wayne County Prosecutor Kyn Worthy’s office, where Hathaway’s ex-husband Richard is Chief Assistant, and where she must directly rule upon the propriety of conduct of former Third Circuit, Criminal Division co-colleagues that took place when she served with them on that bench.

Briefs, transcripts, and media coverage of the case are archived at davidlmoffitt.com.

Healthcare Reform or Tort Reform?

In Campaign Finance, medical malpractice, MI Supreme Court, Uncategorized, undo tort reform on November 12, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Healthcare Reform or Tort Reform?“, posted with vodpod


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