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December 14, 2004

Report Bolsters Harris Poll Findings on Abusive Legal Climates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today applauded the American Tort Reform Association’s (ATRA) release of its new report, “Bringing Justice to Judicial Hellholes.”

“This report underscores what all of us have known for some time, that in Madison County, Illinois and other ‘jackpot jurisdictions,’ the deck is stacked in favor of the plaintiffs’ bar,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “We will continue to shine a spotlight on Madison County and other problem jurisdictions and pursue the fight for the judicial and legislative changes that will restore balance to the legal system in those states.”

The report, based on a survey of ATRA’s membership, identified nine “judicial hellholes,” with Illinois’ Madison County ranked as number one and neighboring St. Clair County as number two. In the most recent Harris State Liability System Rankings, Illinois dropped 10 places in two years to number 44, due in large part to the abusive legal climate in Madison and St. Clair Counties.

Madison County has become a “magnet jurisdiction” for both asbestos litigation and class actions as plaintiffs’ lawyers flock to the county in search of a big payday from friendly judges and juries. Madison County class action filings alone have grown 5,200 percent since 1998.

Among the other “judicial hellholes” reported by ATRA were Hampton County, South Carolina; the state of West Virginia; Orleans Parish, Louisiana; South Florida; and Los Angeles County, California. The recognition of these jurisdictions as problematic further substantiates the low rankings their home states received in ILR’s 2004 Harris Poll survey: South Carolina 40; West Virginia 49; Louisiana 47; Florida 38; and California 46.

The mission of the Institute for Legal Reform is to make America’s legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone. It seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial and educational activities at the national, state and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.

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