Hulshof Outlines Court Plan

Press Release

By:  Kenny Hulshof
Date: Sept. 23, 2008
Location: Saint Louis, MO

Kenny Hulshof continues to outline specific plans to improve Missouri's job climate. Today, he presented a package of reforms that would increase fairness within the state's judicial system and encourage job creation.

Although important reforms have recently been made, there is still room for improvement. According to the Institute for Legal Reform, Missourians are burdened by the 20th worst legal system in the United States.1 The ratings are even worse for judicial impartiality and venue requirements (33rd in both categories).

"Disorder in the courts is preventing job growth in Missouri," Hulshof said. "A state's legal system is a key factor for potential employers when they are considering a state for business. We can take commonsense steps to clean up our legal system and make our state more attractive for business."

Hulshof's proposals:

Reserving Missouri courts for Missourians.

Designated damages only for those who are injured.

Limiting the punitive claims of uninsured drivers.

In addition, Hulshof is proposing a series of modifications to the Missouri Plan.

"While the intentions of the Missouri Plan remain sound, the current system is broken," Hulshof stated. "A small sector of attorneys has an inordinate amount of influence on the system. It's time to balance the scales."

Despite making up just four percent of total attorneys in Missouri, personal injury lawyers account for 100 percent of the Appellate Judicial Commission. This has resulted in the transformation of a non-partisan, non-ideological process into a politically-slanted one. Nineteen of the last 21 nominees for the Supreme Court have been Democrats. Four of the last six have been members of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

In order to restore balance, Hulshof is proposing the following reforms:

Remove special interests from the Appellate Judicial Commission.

Replace the Chief Justice on the commission with a retired Supreme Court judge.

Increase the number of nominees.

Allow the governor to veto up to two slates of nominees.

"The Missouri Plan was designed to keep politics out of our courtrooms. Unfortunately, that isn't what we're seeing today," Hulshof said. "Trial attorneys are stacking the deck in an attempt to tilt the scales in their favor. This is bad for job creators, doctors, and anyone else upon whom the trial lawyers set their sights. It's time to restore fairness and balance to the Missouri Plan."

Balanced Legal System = Improved Job Climate

I. Improving Missouri's job climate by improving Missouri's courts

· Reserving Missouri courts for Missourians:

Missouri taxpayers should not have to fund a court system that hears cases from out-of-state plaintiffs suing predominately out-of-state companies. Kenny Hulshof will require either that the plaintiffs in the suit must be Missourians, the underlying action must have occurred in Missouri, or the defendant must have its principal place of business here. This will encourage potential job creators to set up shop in Missouri by ending the threat of being sued by anyone in the United States for actions that happened outside of Missouri.

· Designated damages only for those who are injured.

A recent trend pushed by personal injury attorneys are lawsuits awarding damages to plaintiffs who have not yet shown any sign of injury. Kenny Hulshof believes those who are injured should be put first in line to recover in a lawsuit and those who have not yet shown signs of injury should not recover damages that could go to more deserving plaintiffs. To protect those with real injuries, Kenny will propose legislation to require a present physical injury as a requirement for a lawsuit to proceed.

· Limiting punitive claims of uninsured drivers

Current Missouri law affords uninsured drivers the same rights to recover in a personal injury action as those who follow the law and obtain coverage. The uninsured can sue for punitive damages even though they were committing an illegal act by driving without insurance. Kenny Hulshof will propose legislation holding to account those who break our laws. Uninsured drivers would be barred from making claims for punitive or non-economic damages. This will help reduce the cost of insurance for all Missourians.

II. Fix the Missouri Plan

Trial attorneys make up four percent of total attorneys in Missouri. However, they account for 100 percent of the lawyers on the Appellate Judicial Commission (AJC). Nineteen of the last 21 nominees for the Supreme Court have been Democrats, and 4 of the last 6 nominees have been card-carrying members of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.

Hulshof reforms:

· Remove special interests from the AJC

Replace the three personal injury attorneys on the commission with two randomly-selected retired appellate court judges and one randomly-selected Circuit Court judge who has served greater than five years. Cole County judges will not be included due to the frequency of Cole County cases being heard on appeal at the state Supreme Court.

· Remove the appearance of impropriety

It is inappropriate for a judge to choose their own colleagues. Legal and judicial ethics should require measure to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. To fix this, Kenny Hulshof will replace the Chief Justice with one randomly-selected retired Supreme Court Judge.

· Increase the number of nominees, resulting in more choice

To provide more choices, Kenny will increase the number of nominees submitted by the Appellate Judicial Commission from three to five.

· Allow the governor two vetoes

To ensure that the voters of Missouri have a voice in the process, Kenny will provide the governor with two vetoes. After the second veto, the governor will have the option to nominate any person for Senate confirmation. To guard against nepotism and cronyism in the rare circumstance of two gubernatorial vetoes, Kenny will ban governors from appointing any family member, current or former staffer, or campaign contributor to the Supreme Court.

Wrong Way Jay

Favors the status quo - His reliance upon trial attorneys to fund his campaign means that he is eager to help them maintain their tight grip on Missouri's judicial system. Just since August 30, Nixon has raised nearly $400,000 from trial attorneys. This includes law firms he enriched with a $111 million payout for just five months of work on the state's tobacco settlement.

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