Cohen

CHARLESTON – A legal reform group is using the upcoming Academy Awards to spotlight what it says are major problems facing West Virginia.

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse has made its own "nominations" for the coveted Oscars. Executive Director Steve Cohen says the group has found nominated film titles that can be used to describe the state's legal reform situation.

Those nominees, according to a CALA press release, are:

* "The Departed," for the estimated 16,000 jobs lost to West Virginia because of lawsuit abuse, according to a study of multiple-year impacts of the state's legal climate on jobs.

* "Little Miss Sunshine," for the need to bring the light of day on the backroom deals between Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office and his campaigns contributors who are hired through agreements hidden from public scrutiny.

* "Babel," which is a film title that CALA says describes the extent of meaningful dialogue at the state Capitol about fixing the lawsuit abuse problem in West Virginia.

Last year, CALA also had a movie-related theme to spotlight its fight for judicial reform.

The group presented an "Oscar"-type award to Bridgeport radiologist Ray Harron whose x-rays of potential asbestos victims, it said, were worthy of a prize for "Best Science Fiction."

CALA called Harron's mass-screenings a lawsuit mill, for which he was paid by personal injury lawyers close to $10 million. The award for Harron was for "tops in film editing." Harron was subpoenaed by congressional investigators last year and is reportedly being pursued by federal prosecutors.

"We're using a little humor to get our point across," Cohen said. "In reality, though, the lawsuit abuse crisis in West Virginia is a tragedy that can rival any on the Silver Screen."

The real Academy Awards will be handed out on Feb. 25.

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