Mar 01 2004

Graham Stresses Legal Reform at Federal and State Level

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today stressed the need for the federal government and South Carolina to take the necessary steps to help end frivolous lawsuits clogging our court system. “Our federal and state legal system generally serves us very well,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “However, we have come to the point where reform is necessary.” Graham noted that on the federal level he introduced “Loser Pays” legislation along with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The legislation establishes a set of guidelines under which the loser of a lawsuit in federal court could be required to pay the winner’s attorney fees. It applies to cases in which the parties are from different states, which are the large majority of cases in federal court. In order to receive compensation for attorneys’ fees, the wining side must have made a settlement offer that was rejected, and then file a petition with the judge requesting compensation. The judge will make the final determination. “The right to a jury trial is one of the key building blocks of our democracy and should be jealously guarded,” said Graham. “However, I do not believe that the constitution requires nor does justice dictate that in our legal system only one party should bear the burden and the risk. “Loser Pays does more to stop frivolous lawsuits in the federal court system than any other reform,” said Graham. “Litigation designed to shake someone down for a settlement would be far less frequent if each party had something to lose.” Graham noted he often finds himself at odds with his party leadership when it comes to overriding state tort reform laws. “As a conservative, I strongly believe states should have control over their legal systems and be allowed to pursue their own reforms without Big Brother in Washington mandating outcomes,” said Graham. “I am encouraged by efforts to reform South Carolina’s legal system and remain confident that our state can chart its own course without interference from Washington.” Graham said he is also strongly urging the South Carolina General Assembly to consider a “Loser Pays” rule as part of litigation reform. “We have the opportunity in South Carolina to be on the leading edge of legal reform, particularly in medical malpractice,” said Graham. “The arbitration panel with physician involvement and the requirement to arbitrate medical claims, as proposed by the General Assembly, will do much to reduce courtroom litigation.” “I strongly encourage the General Assembly to consider a Loser Pays rule at the state level,” said Graham. “Loser Pays, applied to either party that refuses to go to arbitration, is a strong filtering device against frivolous lawsuits and those who unjustly fail to settle meritorious claims.” “If South Carolina adopts arbitration and Loser Pays, it will be among the first jurisdictions in the country to combine these legal reforms,” said Graham. “Loser Pays will strengthen the reform legislation and will pay great dividends in the future.” “Governor Sanford’s support for arbitration and Loser Pays is another example of bringing about much-need reforms,” said Graham. “He is working to reshape our legal system in a manner consistent with all of his efforts to move our state forward.” #####