Letter to the editor: Trial lawyers in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

By The West Virginia Record | Aug 30, 2007

Dear Editor,

Dear Editor,

In response to personal injury lawyer Mark Moreland's Aug. 22 letter to The Record, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (WV CALA) is a local grassroots watchdog movement that has been active in West Virginia for more than 10 years.

Our dedicated volunteer board members all hail from West Virginia, and our membership is more than 30,000 households in the Mountain State.

WV CALA members are frustrated by questionable ethical conduct of some members of the lawsuit industry as well as the exodus of jobs from our state because employers are targeted by the lawsuits based on greed rather than fairness.

Like most non-profit organizations, WV CALA protects the privacy our supporters.

While we are not about to serve them up to the persecution of the personal injury bar, Mr. Moreland should know that WV CALA has received numerous financial contributions, both small and large, from all areas of the state. Whether it is a $5 contributi on from Craigsville, a $10 contribution from Canvas, $25 from Pennsboro, or $300 from Kenova, WV CALA's support in this state runs deep.

WV CALA also files all of its public disclosures as required by law. That is more than we can say for Mr. Moreland's personal injury lawyer pals.

In fact, the lawsuit industry here, an enterprise Mr. Moreland brands as an "association for justice," has made numerous attempts to hide its identity over the years.

In 1997, personal injury lawyers helped bankroll "Consumer Attorneys of West Virginia," the Warren McGraw campaign front group that pumped nearly $2 million into the 2004 state Supreme Court race. Their contributors have never been identified. According to The Charleston Gazette, "Consumer Attorneys" failed to properly register with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization, even though the organization listed itself as a non-profit with the West Virginia Secretary of State's office.

In the 2004 election, "Consumer Attorneys" funneled their nearly $2 million in campaign cash through yet another front group, the similarly named "Consumers for Justice," not to be confused with the lawsuit industry's new name "Association for Justice," formerly the "Trial Lawyers' Association."

As reported by both The Gazette and The Record, "Consumers for Justice" also failed to properly file its necessary paperwork with the IRS. The organization has since filed for bankruptcy. Before Mr. Moreland casts aspersions about WV CALA, perhaps he could enroll his personal injury lawyer colleagues in a continuing legal education class on how to comply with the Internal Revenue Code.

It is too bad that the lawsuit industry feels threatened by WV CALA's crusade to reform our broken legal system. This is the second time in less than a year that personal injury lawyers have attacked WV CALA's status as a grassroots organization. Personal injury lawyer Harry Deitzler did so in November 2006.

How absurd that a fraternity of lawyers hides behind name changes and improper organization filings, yet questions the legitimate status of WV CALA.

Has Mr. Moreland not heard that "those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones?"

Steve Cohen
Executive Director, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

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