Of course the Seattle Times editorial board enthusiastically supports Attorney General Rob McKenna’s call for liability reform. He’s Rob Fucking McKenna, the WA GOP’s Kwisatz Haderach. Hell, if McKenna had come out in favor of strangling kittens, the Times would’ve surely urged broad bipartisan support:
“Kitten lovers will not like these ideas,” the Times editors might write. “Democratic lawmakers are sure to be lobbied against them. McKenna is a two-term Republican appealing to a Democratic-controlled state Legislature for reform.”
Consider this: In 2009, the state paid out more than $50 million in legal judgments and settlements. According to McKenna, that is between four times and 12 times as much as comparably sized states, including Massachusetts, Arizona, Tennessee and Indiana. The tally for this biennium may approach $125 million.
Now, I’m not totally dismissing out of hand the notion of some sort of liability reform, and I’m willing to hear the arguments pro and con, but consider this: perhaps it’s not just our liability statutes that account for the rising cost of legal judgments against the state, and the dramatically lower costs elsewhere. Perhaps, just maybe, Massachusetts, Arizona, Tennessee and Indiana pay out less in legal settlements because they have better lawyers?
I mean, it’s not the law that changed back when McKenna first won election in 2004, just the management of his office. So shouldn’t he accept at least a teensy bit of responsibility for losing all those expensive cases, rather than, as the Times attempts to do, pinning all blame on the trial lawyers who keep kicking the AG’s ass (not to mention Democratic legislators)? Isn’t it reasonable to at least consider the possibility that the rise in the cost of judgments against the state has something to do with a decline in the quality of our legal representation?
Republicans are fond of saying that government should be run more like a business. Well, if I were the CEO of a large corporation, and my legal costs suddenly spiked concurrent to the tenure of my Chief Legal Counsel, I’d probably look into hiring myself a new Chief Legal Counsel… you know, one who’s not such a sucky lawyer.