We have less than two weeks left until the November election, and I thought I would make one last argument against Prop 37, in case anyone was still undecided.
Nearly every daily newspaper in California has come out against Prop 37. Their reasons for opposing Prop 37 have varied, including the cost to implement the measure and the fact that two-thirds of the foods we eat are exempted from its labeling requirements. Almost every newspaper hit on one aspect of the initiative, though: Prop 37 will be a gold mine for trial lawyers while increasing costs for the rest of us. In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s second editorial against Prop 37 specifically calls the shakedown lawsuits allowed by Prop 37 “a scam.”
CALA opposes this initiative for one reason: it will create more lawsuits. One of the authors of Prop 37 is a gentleman named James Wheaton. Mr. Wheaton is President and Legal Director for the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) in Oakland. The ELF and Mr. Wheaton have a long history of making a lot of money on suing businesses. A case in point is Prop 65. Just take a look at the settlement amounts and attorney fees the ELF took in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
In those three years, the ELF and Mr. Wheaton took between 85% and 100% of total settlement costs in legal fees, totaling $7,558,500. This is even more egregious when one considers that Prop 65 settlement fees were intended to be used to protect the environment – not line the pockets of trial lawyers filing lawsuits. Seriously, I am all for earning a living, but this should outrage even the most level-headed people. Were these lawsuits about protecting the environment? Or were they about money?
In addition to writing Prop 37, Mr. Wheaton was one of the authors of Prop 65. Both laws reward individual lawyers for filing lawsuits, and Prop 37 even allows them if there is no evidence that a violation occurred.
The enforcement section of Prop 37 is a green light to plaintiffs’ lawyers like James Wheaton. The last thing California needs right now is more lawsuits. Our courts have been cut by nearly $1 billion over the past three years and our legal climate is ranked close to last in the nation.
In a 2010 interview, Wheaton stated that he “sincerely doubts” that any voter actually reads a full text of any initiative measure.
Prop 37 will be a disaster for California. James Wheaton just hopes you do not read it.