CHARLESTON – The leader of a state organization says Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin erred by not highlighting the need for legal reform in his State of the State address.
Roman Stauffer, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, said such reforms could create jobs and help the state's economy.
“It’s unfortunate that Governor Tomblin neglected to address our state’s notorious and job-killing legal climate,” Stauffer said. “Just last month, the American Tort Reform Foundation named West Virginia a ‘Judicial Hellhole’ because of its unfair and unbalanced lawsuit system.”
In his Jan. 14 speech to both houses of the state Legislature, Tomblin didn't mention any legal reform ideas. But he did say he “resent[s] those who irresponsibly label” the state a judicial hellhole. He also said he was open to “reasonable, responsible reforms” to the state's legal system.
“Today, we are sending Governor Tomblin a copy of the American Tort Reform Foundation’s 'Judicial Hellholes' report," Stauffer said Thursday, a day after the speech. "We encourage him to read the report, read about the cases where our Supreme Court of Appeals abandoned traditional law and expanded liability – and read about the personal injury lawyers who abused our legal system and were found liable for fraud and racketeering over bogus asbestos claims."
Stauffer also noted that the state is ranked last in the country in workforce participation, a title the state has held for more than 30 years.
"We are very hopeful that Governor Tomblin will work in a bipartisan manner with State Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead, who have said passing much needed legal reforms are a key component of the economic recovery package for West Virginia that they plan to propose to the West Virginia Legislature,” Stauffer said. “Our grassroots members are hopeful the Legislature will pass legal reforms such as the creation of an intermediate appellate court, improved joint and several liability laws, protections for property owners against trespassers, and legislation to ensure transparency in the hiring of private attorneys by state agencies, similar to the good government policy established by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey."
In a press release, newly elected U.S. Senator Senator Shelley Moore Capito noted the historic start of this state legislative session.
“Our state made history once again today as Republicans took control of the state Legislature for the first time in more than 80 years and got to work rebuilding West Virginia," she said. "I was pleased to hear Governor Tomblin affirm tonight that he will work together with the new legislature for the common good of West Virginians.
"In order for West Virginia to reach her full potential we must create an environment where coal, jobs, businesses and families can thrive. Today, I am more confident than ever that we are on the right path toward turning our economy around and making our beloved state the best it can be.”