Although attorney Ron Motley of Motley Rice received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the the annual American Association for Justice (AAJ) convention earlier this month, we choose not to congratulate him. His gain, alas, is our loss.
The AAJ is an association of plaintiff's lawyers whose lifetime achievements for some include using lawsuits as a weapon to attack legitimate American businesses, to bleed corporate profits, to damage and destroy investments of shareholders, and to put workers out of work.
The nemesis of tobacco, lead paint and asbestos manufacturers, Motley over the years has expanded his South Carolina-based operations to several other states, including our own. His class action conquests in West Virginia have sullied the reputation of our court system and taken a toll on our struggling economy.
Unfortunately, Motley and his colleagues in the trial bar have the ear of the current administration in Washington –- a clout they touted at the recent AAJ convention -- and are trying to use that influence to secure a generous tax break for their business-bashing activities. According to trial lawyer lobbyists, they are close to convincing the U.S. Treasury department to issue an administrative ruling that lets plaintiff's lawyers like Motley write-off the expenses they incur initially -- but for which they later can be reimbursed -- in pursuing asbestos and class action lawsuits.
The AAJ tried to slip the change through Congress last year, but demurred when word got out to the public. Passing a tax break for trial lawyers during a recession didn't prove very popular. By now appealing to President Obama-appointed Treasury officials instead, the trial lawyers won't need the people's approval to be successful.
"This is another gift from the lawsuit-loving Obama administration to the already rich," comments Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. "The Obama administration and their adherents in Congress tax, regulate, and penalize the businesses that hire Americans who need jobs and turn around and shovel money to their multi-millionaire political allies," Roberts said. "A tax break for plaintiffs lawyers who sue people for a living is nothing short of welfare for the rich."
Richie Heath, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, concurs. "Why on earth would we want to create additional incentives for filing job-killing lawsuits at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work?" he asks. "It's simply ridiculous to force taxpayers to subsidize the lawsuits of wealthy personal injury lawyers."
We agree with Roberts and Heath. The Motley crew doesn't need our encouragement. They've done enough damage and do not deserve congratulations or subsidies.