Am I Living in a Judicial Hellhole?

Tom Scott
CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

No this is not a new song by Lady Gaga. This is a another honor, or should I say dishonor, bestowed upon the Golden State. The American Tort Reform Association releases an annual Judicial Hellholes report. This year California ranks second on its list of Judicial Hellholes. This year’s report focuses on six areas in the nation that are known for uneven justice.

This year, the top honor goes to Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. The City of Brotherly love is also in a love affair with trial lawyers I guess. Litigation tourism is being viewed by some as a form of economic stimulous. Punitive damages over $1 million in Philadelphia have reportedly tripled.

In second place is California, particularly Los Angeles and Humboldt counties. In Los Angeles, a $208.8 million verdict for a single asbestos claimant, the largest such award in California history, is a prime example. Humboldt county hosted a $677 million class action verdict against a nursing home provider for occasionally falling below staffing levels required by state regulators, even though no injury was claimed by the plaintiffs. These in addition to extortionate disability access claims against small businesses and expansive liability have placed California as a judicial hellole.

The Judicial Hellholes report follows reports by the U.S Chamber and the Pacific Research Institute, which all place California’s legal climate in disarray. I mean how many more signs do you need to figure something is wrong in the Golden State? The way things are going, they might want to just refer to California as "the state" and drop the golden. Study after study comes along and the state slips deeper and deeper into the economic abyss. Maybe it is time to re-think how we are doing business, or should I say governing.

In the words of Jack Nicholson, it is time to trade up and completely change our thinking of how we are managing our state’s problems. The model that we have been operating under is broken. Legal reform needs to be a top priority going into 2011. Republicans and democrats need to put partisanship aside and work to fix our legal and judicial systems.

Other states and counties have changed and rid themselves of the hellhole title. It is now California’s time to change course.

Cross posted at

Comment on this article

Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.