The Firm

The defense by the rest of the tort bar is that these are exceptions who shouldn’t tar an entire industry. And of course not all tort lawyers are crooks. But it’s worth noting that no less an authority than Bill Lerach continues to assert, even from his jail cell, that what Milberg and his partners did was merely standard “industry practice.”

He has a point. One problem is the practice of mass-tort claims, which give an incentive for settlements divorced from actual justice. They are a form of extortion. For further evidence, we recommend Peter Boyer’s recent New Yorker profile of Dickie Scruggs, the Mississippi tort king who has also copped to a felony. As one of Scruggs’s admirers told Mr. Boyer, “The risk to a defendant of having liability imposed on several hundred cases was a risk that was more than that defendant wanted to reasonably bear. It created an atmosphere to settle the cases.”

In a better world, our politicians would attempt to prevent such legal abuse. But Democrats in Congress have yet to hold a single hearing on tort-lawyer corruption. They are instead working hard to create more opportunities for mass-tort extortion by adding more causes of action to every bill they pass.

Milberg, Lerach and Scruggs are industry leaders. Add the evidence of legal fraud in asbestos and silicosis cases, and the Justice Department has every reason to continue cleaning up a tort bar that Congress refuses to police.

WSJ Editorial
6/18/8