State legislative candidates see legal reform key to jobs, ecomomic growth

By The West Virginia Record | May 2, 2006

CHARLESTON –- Many West Virginia legislative candidates want to change the legal landscape in the Mountain State, according to a candidate survey by judicial watchdog group West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA).

Three-fourths of more than 100 candidates responding to the survey listed as important issues the need to increase jobs by improving the state's legal climate and reducing frivolous lawsuits. These two concerns, and judicial activism, were said to be the three most important issues facing our state's civil justice system.

"Many legislative candidates want to fight for West Virginia consumers and families and get serious about changing our state's reputation as a dumping ground for lawsuits," said Steve Cohen, executive director of WV CALA. "That's encouraging news –- I don't think anyone but personal injury lawyers want another year to go by where West Virginia's legal system continues to be ranked last in the nation."

The WV CALA survey, distributed to all state legislative candidates running in the May primary, also asked candidates to discuss their positions on recent lawsuit abuse issues.

A vast majority of candidates responding support legislative proposals recently considered in the state Legislature.

These include reforming the state's joint and several liability (94 percent) and appeal bond (94 percent) laws, enacting a "sunshine law" to make public the information about the private attorney hiring practices of the state attorney general (98 percent), and limiting asbestos and silica lawsuits by persons who have no evidence of injury (94 percent). More than 90 percent of candidates surveyed also support passing legislation to modify the state Supreme Court's "No Proof? No Problem!" medical monitoring ruling that allows people to sue based on fear of injury rather than actual proof that they have suffered harm.

"The responses to this questionnaire show the broad interest among candidates for our Legislature in increasing job opportunities and improving the quality of West Virginia's courts," said Cohen. "The voters of West Virginia have some clear choices at the ballot box this May."

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