Federal agencies in Washington, which are supposed to regulate certain industries, have gotten deeply into the business of “tort reform.” In fact, they have quietly joined with the giants in Corporate America in this tort reform movement. The Bush Administration has backed this end-run around Congress without a great deal of fanfare. Using a variety of largely unheralded regulations, officials appointed by President Bush have moved in recent months at the regulatory level to take away citizens’ rights. At the urging of powerful industry groups, several federal regulatory agencies have inserted clauses in new rules that block the right to go to court for American citizens. This is what some have described as “silent tort reform.”
State Attorneys General and state lawmakers have filed objections to the movement. Attorneys General in 16 states, including New York, California and Massachusetts, recently sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about that agency’s effort to preempt roof safety rules. In the letter, the Attorneys General stated:
The state common law court system serves as a vital check on government-imposed safety standards. The proposal is likely to erode manufacturer incentives to assure that vehicles are as safe as possible for their intended use.
The new regulations will face court scrutiny in the coming months. The official White House position has been that the federal government knows better than the states on this issue. Based on the President’s handling of Katrina and the issue concerning security at our nation’s ports, I don’t believe Karl Rove and his minions can sell that view to the American people. It certainly appears that this is another example of the President once again leaving his conservative base, who believe strongly in states’ rights. Silent tort reform at the federal level flies in the face of their position on states’ rights. The states are more than capable of handling this issue.
Source: New York Times
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