NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Judicial Hellholes" Ruining America

February 5, 2004

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) recently released its annual list of "judicial hellholes" for the year 2003 -- defined as jurisdictions in the United States where, they say, it is virtually impossible to get a fair trial, particularly if the defendant is the subject of a personal injury lawsuit. The report lists 13 trial courts where excessive awards and favorable precedence are commonplace:

  • Madison County, Illinois, is ranked the number one judicial hellhole; county judges receive 75 percent of their contributions from personal injury lawyers and not surprisingly, class action lawsuits increased 2050 percent from 1998 to 2001.
  • The 22nd Judicial District of Mississippi, a jurisdiction known for outrageous verdicts, is under investigation due to allegations that jurors have received payments for verdicts; they were even the subject of a 60 Minutes news segment.
  • A judge in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, invited jurors to celebrate with him after they handed down a large verdict -- even allowing jurors to have their pictures taken with him.

While personal injury lawyers may be benefiting from these jurisdictions, the public suffers. The cost of the civil justice system is about $2,800 per family, the highest ever. Asbestos litigation has bankrupted over 70 businesses, and doctors are leaving these jurisdictions over medical malpractice lawsuits, resulting in many citizens left without access to certain healthcare services. Even trial lawyers admit that defendants are not getting fair trials in the hellhole jurisdictions.

Sherman Joyce, President of ATRA, points out, "If the Supreme Court of the United States behaved like some of the courts we've identified, it would be front page news."

Source: PR Newswire Association, "ATRA Cites 13 'Judicial Hellholes' in New 2003 Report, Identifies Courts Where 'Equal Justice Under Law' is Elusive,", November 6, 2003.


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