Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is waging a petition effort to drive politics out of the courtroom.
Known as the “Legal Sunshine Pledge”, the signature drive takes aim at perceived conflicts of interest in judicial fundraising and the letting of contracts to lawyers by public officials. A third plank of the pledge addresses lawyer fee arrangements in class action lawsuits.
According to CALA Houston trustee Sterling Cornelius, residents are being asked to express their opinion for or against suggested solutions. By signing the pledge, said Cornelius, signers agree with the need for “open government and an end to back room deals, equal rights for legal consumers and an end to the appearance of ‘Justice for Sale’ in our courts.”
Cornelius hopes officials would voluntarily agree to avoid taking campaign money that poses a potential conflict of interest.
The ultimate solution, Cornelius said, may be a shift to the long debated selection of judges based on merit, similar to systems in place in several other states.
1. Justice For Sale?
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is waging a petition effort to drive politics out of the courtroom. Money can taint the process, give the appearance of impropriety and erode the public's confidence in a fair and impartial legal system. Some think it is time we stop the appearance of "Justice For Sale" in our courts.
Judges should pledge not to accept any contribution from any party that has a case pending before their court.
2. Back Room Deals?
The appearance of impropriety can damage the integrity of state and local governments. As an example, politicians may award big legal contracts to a lawyer or a law firm who is a big political campaign contributor. The awarding of these contracts is not subject to independent review. Some think back room deals are contrary to the spirit of open government and breach the public trust.
It has been suggested elected officials and public agencies should be required to:
• Publicly disclose the letting of any outside legal contracts;
• Subject to independent review (i.e., city council, commisioners court, legislative committee) contracts awarded to campaign contributors that are valued in excess of $250,00 in hourly or contingency fees.
• Publicly disclose at the time the outside legal contract is let, the amount of political contributions received from the lawyers awarded the contract.
3. Require Full Disclosure for Legal Consumers?
Texas consumers do not have the same legal rights when hiring an attorney as they currently do when purchasing goods or services from any other Texas business. Consequently, an individual involved in a lawsuit may not be able to demand a full accounting for any legal fees or expenses charged.
Some have suggested lawyers for multi-plaintiff and class action lawsuits should be required to notify their clients of the number of hours they spent on the lawsuit, their total fees and their effective hourly rate prior to settlement.
Register Your Opinion
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
2500 City West Boulevard, Suite 300 • Houston, Texas 77042
E-mail: sosueme@ • Administrative: (713) 267-2302 • Fax: (713) 267-2267