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November Election A Lawyer's Delight

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2008/08/11 09:40

It can hardly come as a surprise that Barack Obama, Harvard Law Class of '91, is popular with lawyers. They've given him $21 million in donations so far, compared with a measly $7 million for Republican rival John McCain.

But like all things Obama, the picture is cloudier than it first appears. Most of Obama's lawyer money came from defense firms. He got the single biggest slug of cash from Kirkland & Ellis, the Chicago law firm that represents Marlboro merchant Philip Morris and asbestos manufacturers, among others. He also co-sponsored a bill designed to cut down on malpractice litigation in 2005, and voted for the Class Action Fairness Act, a law that made it harder for trial lawyers to file some of their most lucrative cases.

Those actions send pangs of doubt through die-hard supporters of the unfettered right to sue, such as Graham Steele, a staff attorney at consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.

If liberals are worried, however, conservatives should be terrified. Whether Obama or McCain wins in November, tort reform appears dead in Washington for at least the next two years. A catchall phrase for legislative measures designed to make it harder for individuals to sue businesses, tort reform has long been a pet project of Republicans. Not coincidentally, it reduces the earning power of plaintiff lawyers, some of the biggest contributors to the Democratic Party.


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