We all learned back in grammar school that there are two sides to every story.

So it goes with the latest great debate over lawsuits in West Virginia. Are there too many? Or is it too few?

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform released its annual survey of 1,400 company lawyers, taking the former stance. Asked to pick and choose the places where courts were the most unfair to business, they ranked the Mountain State dead last among America's fifty.

Chalk one up for "too many."

Meanwhile, the West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, whose members hold the latter opinion and hold it strongly, immediately countered the Chamber with its own point of view via a press missive. President Harvey Peyton dubbed the survey a "sham" intended to "dupe West Virginia lawmakers."

Score one for "too few."

Readers of this page -- the editorial page, that is -- won't be surprised to know that we agree with the "too many" position. All of those lawsuit stories we write might make for an entertaining read, but we're certain our state would be better off without them.

But that doesn't mean we begrudge the Harvey Peytons of the world from making their case right beside ours. In fact, we strongly encourage it.

In fact, since printing our first edition late last fall, we've offered an open invitation to opposing views interested in making their case right here with no strings attached. Bash us, bash the Chamber, bash business, or even genuflect before Darrell McGraw on our pages -- we're all for it, with open arms.

Our goal is to stimulate a healthy dialogue on issue of great importance to West Virginia. And while dialogue always includes some preaching, it doesn't involve a choir.

We want you to buy our arguments -- that's why we make them in the first place. But those truly confident in the quality of their position aren't intimidated by the other side. Suppressing contrary voices won't make yours sound stronger.

Personal injury lawyer Robert P. Fitzsimmons, owner of WKKX-AM in Wheeling, might consider the hint. He rejected a pro-tort reform advertisment from the Chamber last week, reportedly telling the buyer that it went against "everything he stands for."

We guess those principles don't include the First Amendment. Call it his loss.

Free speech is a grand thing, and The Record considers it an honor to facilitate it.

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