Partisan election of judges doesn’t help

Kudos to David Ridenour for highlighting many problems with West Virginia’s dysfunctional tort system in his July 15 column, “The state should pursue tort reform.”

I’d like to add one more problem – the state’s partisan judicial elections.

Litigation awards tend to be higher in states with an elected judiciary. Judges can effectively buy votes by granting huge tort awards to in-state plaintiffs against out-of-state defendants.

Judges also depend on trial lawyers with cases before them for campaign contributions. It’s only natural that they’d be unduly influenced by the arguments of these attorneys once they’re on the bench.

When judges act as politicians in robes, the state’s judicial system is further eroded.

Systemic flaws like this are why West Virginia was classified as a “sinner” state in the Pacific Research Institute’s 2008 U.S. Tort Liability Index, which I co-authored.

Unless West Virginia’s policymakers enact common sense, meaningful tort reform, the state will continue to lose businesses and jobs.

Lawrence J. McQuillan, Ph.D.
San Francisco, Calif.

McQuillan is director of Business and Economic Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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