Engler to Gov. Henry: Carpe Tort Reform

By April 27, 2007Briefly Legal

NAM President John Engler had a letter to the editor published in today’s Daily Oklahoman, urging Governor Brad Henry to sign S.B. 507, the civil justice reform package. Here’s the text (free registration required):

Gov. Henry should seize opportunity

The Oklahoma Legislature has passed a bill that would put the state at the forefront of a growing civil justice reform movement — but only if Gov. Brad Henry signs it.

As a former governor, I know that a state’s legal climate is as critical to attracting business investment and jobs as tax incentives or any other pro-growth initiative. Oklahoma, ranked a low 38th last year on the Tort Liability Index by the Pacific Research Institute, has a chance to challenge higher-ranking Texas, a prime economic competitor.

Henry asked for some of these measures in a 2004 news release, calling for “a comprehensive tort reform initiative that will stamp out frivolous lawsuits and prevent abuse to make Oklahoma’s civil justice system the ‘best in the nation.'” The governor listed 28 “key areas” of reform. Eighteen of those are now on his desk.

Despite his advocacy of legal reform, Gov. Henry is now under tremendous pressure to change his mind. A small band of politically influential trial bar millionaires wants him to find any excuse to veto the bill. For the sake of Oklahoma’s economy, Gov. Henry would be wise ignore these special interests.

Oklahoma’s Legislature set an example by calling for the return of common sense to our courts. Oklahoma’s governor should seize this opportunity to be a leader in the legal reform movement.

John Engler, Washington, D.C.

The Enid News also carries a strong editorial endorsement of the legislation in today’s paper. So do the Tecumsah County and Shawnee newspapers appearing on the Pottawatomie Online website (here), concluding:

We believe Brad Henry now and always wants to do what’s best for Oklahoma and Oklahomans. As far as we’re concerned, making Oklahoma “Texas Plus” in its attitude toward business is Job One. It remains to be seen whether this tort reform bill really goes too far but if it does, that can be fixed. It may be hard for a lawyer from a family of lawyers to see, but our state really does have “Jackpot Justice” in a “Let’s Make A Deal” legal atmosphere and thinking, truly progressive Oklahomans have waited a long time to see that fixed.

Sign the bill, governor.

UPDATE (5:20 p.m.) The Oklahoman’s Capitol Bureau blog reports that Governor Henry has problems with several provisions. In a letter to a Republican legislator, Henry wrote, “Although I have not completed my review of the 130-page bill, I have identified several additional areas of concern in my initial examination.”

Deadline for acting on the bill is Saturday.