CHARLESTON -- Steve Cohen has been named the new executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
"I look forward to working with the 30,000 West Virginia families who have joined the fight to stop lawsuit abuse which continues to threaten Mountain State jobs and health care for our families," Cohen said. "As we saw in last year's judicial elections, a majority of the voting public understands that having better courts and equal justice will benefit all West Virginians."
Cohen has been in West Virginia on and off since the early 1980s. He was the press secretary for Gov. Gaston Caperton during his first term in office, and worked on his campaign.
Most recently, Cohen was communications director for Brent Benjamin's successful 2004 run against incumbent Warren McGraw for the state Supreme Court. Cohen was an energy lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and six states before joining the Benjamin campaign.
"Working on the Benjamin campaign, we saw how active judges have been in the state," Cohen said. "We have a system that has been out of control, and that system hurts workers and families. It costs jobs and drives up health care costs, and consumers lose.
"The courts have an important role in our state, but they've been a forum for jackpot justice. Clearly, last year's (state) Supreme Court race showed that West Virginia is sick of frivolous lawsuits."
Cohen, who lives in Wheeling, has an MPA from Georgetown University and an MA from West Virginia University.
"West Virginia is a great state that can be made even better by fixing our civil justice system, and we look forward to the opportunity to work with Steve Cohen to accomplish WV CALA's goals," said Robert D. Mauk, chairman of WV CALA.
"Over the years, West Virginia has faced various lawsuit abuse crises, including outrageous courtroom behavior, health care liability problems, employers leaving and vowing to stay away from our state, and highly questionable legal ethical practices. It seems you can't turn around without bumping into yet another problem involving our courts and personal injury lawsuit industry."
Cohen, 50, said West Virginia has made some strides in recent years.
"The state has taken important steps to reform, but more needs to be done," he said. "We still have doctors whose medical malpractice insurance is so high that they're on the verge of closing down their practices."
Cohen said he has a number of issues he' like to focus on during 2006.
"One is public officials who campaign from their office," he said. "Another is lawyers who advertise to those who are not truly injured. Those who are not truly injured shouldn't be taking unfair advantage of the court system.
"People active in CALA truly care about the state, and CALA will remain extremely active in 2006."
WV CALA is a nonprofit citizen watchdog group interested in a variety of civil justice issues. For more information about the group, visit www.WVjusticewatch.org or write to P.O. Box 127, Charleston, WV, 25321.