The judicial system has been under constant and relentless attack in the past two decades. As we all know, most of the attacks have been leveled on state courts. Now there is a shift that involves the federal judiciary. The rights of all Americans to access justice and accountability are at risk. American Association for Justice (AAJ) President Burton LeBlanc and other top civil justice advocates testified last month before the Judicial Conference of the United States. They are concerned about proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that would dramatically alter our legal system. There is a movement working to make it much more difficult to hold corporations that injure and kill Americans accountable in court. AAJ President LeBlanc had this to say:
These changes would devastate Americans’ access to justice and rig the courts in favor of corporations that violate our rights. This will further stack the deck against American citizens and small businesses seeking accountability in court.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establish how civil lawsuits are filed, pursued and tried in federal courts. The proposed Rules changes would limit discovery, decrease the number and length of depositions and remove incentives to preserve critical documents. This will have a chilling effect on civil rights, employment discrimination, bank fraud, defective products claims and environmental cases. That’s because the information needed to develop and prove these types of case is often in the sole possession of the corporation.
These changes will also directly impact taxpayers. Cases that allege fraud in government programs would be more difficult to prove. For example, in a case against Momence Meadows Nursing Home and its owner, Jacob Graff, a whistleblower claimed Graff and the nursing home defrauded the federal government and the state of Illinois by billing Medicare and Medicaid for services that were done so poorly they were essentially worthless to patients.
This case required the review of approximately 350 boxes of patient files and company records, all of which were necessary to prove proper care was not documented or provided. Under the proposed Rules, obtaining these documents would be extremely burdensome, maybe even impossible. LeBlanc made this observation concerning the proposed changes:
This will force cases to be decided before all the facts are found and brought to light. If Americans can’t seek justice in the courtroom, what safety information could corporations hide from the public? If no one is accountable, no one is safe.
The federal court system is too important to allow that system to be rigged in order to favor huge corporations ahead of people who seek justice. Lawyers who represent victims of corporate wrongdoing and abuse have an obligation to get involved in this important battle.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution
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