The nation’s political landscape has seen a momentous shift with the election of a new president, followed by the slimmest of new majorities in the Senate after Georgia’s recent special election. As a 50-50 Senate run by Democrats settles in, attention is now turning back to another massive pandemic relief bill, this time shaped in the image of President Biden.
With the Democratic control in Washington, there appears no chance that the next pandemic relief bill will include one of the most high-profile items from previous negotiations: virus-related lawsuit limits for responsible businesses.
It looks as if businesses that simply did their best to stay open, scrape by, and serve consumers as safely as they could during the pandemic will have to keep waiting and hoping. And it is pretty easy to figure out why these businesses are being left out — commonsense lawsuit limits would run afoul of the nation’s trial lawyers, who are favored allies of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who has significant control over the next relief bill.
During the preelection pandemic relief negotiations, Mitch McConnell, then the Senate majority leader, placed blame for the deadlock over pandemic-related lawsuit limits on the alliance between the Left and trial lawyers, tweeting: “Trial lawyers are among Democrats’ most reliable sources of campaign cash. Coincidentally, Democrats say they’d rather not pass any more aid (PPP, vaccine distribution, jobless aid) than limit the opportunity for the plaintiffs’ bar to suck money from our nation’s re-opening.”
McConnell was right on target. Trial lawyers as a group give millions to liberal political allies. Giving by the most high-profile firms is particularly notable. Morgan & Morgan, the Florida firm famous for its ubiquitous billboards, was responsible for over $3 million in the past two election cycles. And Motley Rice out of South Carolina was responsible for over $1 million, which averaged to more than $13,000 per lawyer and put its lead partner, Joe Rice, into position as a rumored candidate to be an ambassador for Biden.
And Schumer, in particular, has benefited from the “generosity” of the trial lawyers’ political donations. Senate Majority PAC, a Schumer-aligned super PAC, received at least $2 million from the main trial lawyer political arm, American Association for Justice PAC, during the last four-year election cycle. And then there are the millions upon millions that trial lawyers spent supporting Schumer’s hand-picked Senate candidates, which include money flowing out of a web of trial lawyer super PACs and political committees focused squarely on the Senate.
For example, Truth and Justice Fund PAC, a trial lawyer super PAC that was supported by many of the leading trial law firms, including Motley Rice, spent $1.5 million backing Steve Bullock in Montana and the now-infamous Cal Cunningham in North Carolina during the 2020 election.
Justice 2018 and Justice 2020, two other trial lawyer-funded PACs, separately sent seven figures of support to Democratic Senate candidates across the country, backing Democrats and hitting Republicans in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, and beyond.
When you see numbers similar to this, it isn’t surprising that liberal politicians such as Schumer would work hand in hand with trial lawyers. And that is before you consider that the Left has long been happy to enrich lawyers who not only make big political contributions but also spend their time and money using questionable legal theories to generate payouts to left-wing groups or obtain liberal policy outcomes through the courts.
Remember, it is trial lawyers who are trying to cripple the nation’s energy companies through climate change litigation, using the courts to advance immigration policies favored by liberal advocacy groups, and sending massive privacy class action settlement awards to the American Civil Liberties Union and liberal universities instead of everyday victims whose privacy rights were violated.
And the ties between trial lawyers and liberal politicians now run all the way to the steps of the White House. Let’s not forget that Biden’s younger brother Frank serves as a high-profile senior adviser at a trial lawyer shop in Florida. According to recent news reports, Frank Biden flew to his brother’s inauguration on a Morgan & Morgan private jet with the firm’s leader, his close friend John Morgan.
If we can take one lesson from the current, bewildering failure to pass commonsense business protection measures at the federal level in response to the pandemic, it should be that the time has come to tackle the influence of the radical trial bar, which is deeply entrenched on the Left and is growing more influential in certain circles on the Right. These trial lawyers too often fail to serve consumers, the rule of law, or the public good. Instead, they line their own pockets and advance a far-left policy agenda in the courts.
In responding to the pandemic, and more generally, it is time to put consumers and the economy first, not radical lawyers serving their own pocketbooks and the liberal wish lists of their political allies.
O.H. Skinner is the executive director of the Alliance for Consumers.