Louisiana is still one of the nation’s worst Judicial Hellholes, according to a new report released by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). The state has been singled out for unbalanced courts and excessive litigation eight years in a row and ranked as the nation’s eighth-worst Judicial Hellhole this year.
In explaining the ranking, ATRF’s 2017-18 Judicial Hellholes report cited Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ongoing involvement in dozens of trial-lawyer generated lawsuits against energy companies over production activities conducted decades ago.
“Under his leadership, the state has joined forces with six local parishes to file more than 40 lawsuits targeting major providers of oil and gas jobs in Louisiana,” the report notes. “This summer, the governor added even more fuel to the hellholes fire when he hired one of his top political fundraisers to represent his office and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources in an anticipated wave of new lawsuits, promising, ‘We’re going to be active litigants going forward.’”
“The Edwards administration has argued the suits are necessary to force energy companies to restore wetlands they allegedly damaged with exploration and production operations dating back to the 1930s, but the governor’s ongoing effort to enlist wealthy political supporters to run and possibly reap enormous legal fees from the litigation suggests other powerful motives may be at play,” the report concludes.
According to the report, other pressing issues that contribute to the state’s longstanding reputation as one of the worst places in the country to be sued include problematic venue laws that allow plaintiffs’ attorneys to shop around for favorable judges, a lack of transparency in asbestos litigation and trust claims, skyrocketing disability-access lawsuits targeting small businesses and broad misuse of consumer protection laws.
The message can be hard to hear, but we all know there is truth to it. There are many troubling aspects of Louisiana’s legal system that contribute to the perception that it is difficult, if not impossible, for some to get a fair shake in many of our state courts. We cannot continue to ignore these issues or expect that they will somehow fix themselves. Until we have a governor and a strong majority of state lawmakers that are willing to enact meaningful reforms, we will continue to be pegged as one of the nation’s worst judicial hellholes.
Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch is a high-impact watchdog group dedicated to fixing Louisiana’s legal system through transparency, accountability and lawsuit reform. Their webside is llaw.org. The full text of ATRF’s Judicial Hellholes® report can be viewed at judicialhellholes.org.