Trial lawyers ask CALA to debate again

By Chris Dickerson | May 14, 2015

CHARLESTON – A state group of trial lawyers again has issued a challenge to a legal reform group to take part in a series of public forums about West Virginia’s civil justice system.

And, like the first time the West Virginia Association for Justice asked West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, the group seems as if it will decline the offer.

The WVAJ issued the challenge the first time in February when the state Legislature was in session.

“I don’t understand why CALA refused to join WVAJ in a series of public forums on West Virginia’s civil justice system,” WVAJ Executive Director Beth White said in a statement Wednesday issuing the latest challenge. “There’s been a lot of debate regarding our courts and 7th Amendment right to trial by jury, with us on one side and CALA on the other.

"If CALA’s facts are accurate and West Virginia citizens support its position, as CALA claims they do, then why won’t CALA accept our challenge?

“West Virginians deserve accurate, comprehensive information about our civil justice system, business climate and how our courts protect our state residents and small businesses.”

Later Wednesday, WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said his group has not formally responded to the WVAJ request, but he notes that his group already has debated the group this year on Hoppy Kercheval’s statewide radio show “Talkline” and anticipates there will be similar opportunities.

White noted WV CALA this week is celebrating Juror Appreciation Week.

“This week, CALA praised West Virginia citizens who served on our juries and thanked them for their service,” she said. “WVAJ did the same. CALA should join WVAJ and present our information and positions to the ultimate jury — the people of West Virginia.”

In her release, White said the forums would be “no spin” zones – just like courtrooms where evidence in presented to juries.

“There is a lot of misinformation and half-truths about our courts,” White said. “WVAJ does not deal in propaganda. If CALA accepts our challenge, both sides need to stick to the facts. Information should come from verifiable, third-party sources, not trumped up studies from other front groups that can’t be replicated. Let’s present the hard evidence to the people and let them decide.”

Stauffer dismissed that notion.

“Given the amount of asbestos fraud and abuse being exposed in federal courts these days, the concept of personal injury lawyers operating in a ‘spin free zone’ is laughable,” he told The West Virginia Record.

White also said CALA should disclose who funds the group.

“West Virginians know who funds WVAJ — our attorney and paralegal members,” she said. “For more than 20 years, CALA has claimed to be a ‘citizens’ organization, yet it has refused to disclose its funders from Day 1. If there’s nothing to hide, then why refuse to answer the question?”

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