In addition to educational and advocacy work, the Center for Justice & Democracy directs intensive national and state-specific projects on specific civil justice issues when critical needs arise. The following highlights some of our recent work. (For more, see chapter on our history fighting “tort reform” in Watchdogs and Whistleblowers: A Reference Guide to Consumer Activism.)
In 2003, Congress was heavily pressured by some political forces, including President George W. Bush, to enact federal medical malpractice litigation limits. In response, CJ&D launched the “Medical Rights Bus Tour 2003,” a grassroots education and advocacy bus tour that traveled around the country to raise awareness about the dangers of such legislation for injured patients. The bus tour’s purpose was to educate opinion leaders, the media and lawmakers about why limiting legal rights is terrible public policy, will do nothing to help doctors’ insurance problems and will hurt innocent people. In addition, CJ&D organized numerous victim/consumer news events in DC, and on at least four separate occasions between 2003 and 2006, CJ&D brought victims and families to Washington, D.C. for media events and testimony before Congress. In 2009, CJ&D arranged the first ever medical malpractice victim meeting with the White House and provided many stories for Senate floor speeches. Additionally, CJ&D took a leadership role among public interest groups, moderating Congressional staff briefings at the Senate’s request and coordinating experts for a Congressional Budget Office meeting, also at the Senate’s request. Since 2002, CJ&D has testified six times before Congress on medical malpractice issues. The U.S. Senate has considered medical malpractice limits at least five times during these years and, each time, rejected them decidedly on cloture votes.
When GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in 2009, both companies sought immunity from past and future product liability suits involving the tens of millions of GM and Chrysler cars on the road. Victims, lawyers, state attorneys general and consumer advocates were outraged. As a leader of this coalition, CJ&D organized events and news conferences, brought victims to Capitol Hill and pressured the boards of directors directly. Facing mounting pressure, both companies agreed to accept responsibility for post-bankruptcy defect-related injuries.
In 2002, CJ&D formed Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR), which has become the nation’s largest consumer coalition advocating property/casualty insurance industry reforms. Today AIR includes nearly 100 national and local consumer groups from states across the country. Relying on the skilled expertise of actuary J. Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, AIR has produced groundbreaking studies that are both national and state-specific in scope and has greatly influenced the debate over insurance issues.
In the summer of 2007, CJ&D led a large-scale organizing effort, with news conferences involving victims and public officials in advance of the Stoneridge Supreme Court case, which had widespread implications for victims of securities fraud. Specifically, CJ&D worked with Enron fraud victims on press events in Texas, Oregon and Washington, DC while producing numerous materials and engaging in educational and media efforts. While ultimately the Court ruled against the victims, experts suggested that this effort had a positive impact on the scope of the decision.
CJ&D is working with a number of states to create new websites called “Caps Harm ...” –projects of CJ&D that provide key information about the damage done by “caps” and other “tort reforms” in specific states. “Caps Harm Colorado” is already online, and we are currently working with several other states to establish their sites.
CJ&D has conducted three intensive organizing efforts in New York State that show the range of our grassroots organizing capabilities. In 1999, CJ&D directed – along with NYPIRG – the “Access for Justice Campaign,” which involved a “Journey for Justice” bus tour that brought local victims and groups together for press events throughout New York State. This effort succeeded despite a large business-led effort to cap damages and enact other “tort reforms.” In 2007, when a state medical malpractice task force was formed, CJ&D created and led a coalition of consumer and public interest groups in New York State called, “CURE-NY.” This educational effort successfully brought attention to patients’ rights and again helped block all “tort reform” legislation at that time. In 2011, CJ&D brought in additional staff to organize medical malpractice victims and groups. This effort played a significant role in defeating “caps” on damages that were contained in the Governor’s 2011 budget.
In 2005, CJ&D opened a Chicago office, staffed by two full-time organizers, that we maintained for several years during a particularly intense period of political activity in Illinois. CJ&D-Illinois launched “Patients for Justice,” a group of 80 malpractice survivors and families, which became the largest state network of victims in the country. This office also built a coalition of progressive and public interest groups from a variety of interests to focus on civil justice issues.
CJ&D is standing up to some of the country’s most powerful, well-funded and aggressive special interests by:
CJ&D’s many publications and studies cover a wide range of critical civil justice issues and are widely distributed to opinion leaders, public officials, journalists and organizations across the country. CJ&D's Issues/Fact Sheets section of the website includes an up-to-date list of many civil justice topics that we cover.
At the national and state level, CJ&D works with public officials to protect the civil justice system. CJ&D is often asked to testify before Congress and state legislatures and conducts briefings for legislators and their staff on a range of civil justice issues.
CJ&D is taking the lead on groundbreaking civil justice issues, including the first law review to challenge the constitutionality of “health courts”, the first law review on “tort reform” and racial discrimination, and a major study on the civil justice system’s role in environmental protection.
CJ&D studies, analysis and commentary have been quoted in newspapers nationwide, including: New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. In addition, CJ&D has appeared on many TV and radio networks. as a civil justice expert, including: ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, NPR and PBS. Visit CJ&D’s Press Room for a full list of CJ&D’s articles.
CJ&D organized and maintains regular contact with a closely-knit network of victims/clients and public interest organizations from around the country.