OK Legal Reform: Softly Murmured Someday Soon

By October 2, 2007General

568.jpgStephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal’s Political Diary e-mail (subscription) catches us up on Governor Brad Henry’s support for legal reform. By support, we mean, kill:

Five months ago Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma vetoed a tort reform bill to bring common sense litigation changes to the Sooner State. That veto infuriated business and taxpayer groups because Mr. Henry had campaigned for governor promising “a Texas-plus” lawsuit reform bill. In the event, Oklahoma trial lawyers made sure any such reforms, including caps on punitive damages, never saw the light of day. They put a full-court press on the governor. Mr. Henry said he vetoed the bill because of a $300,000 “hard cap” on pain-and-suffering damages. That was a key feature of the Texas lawsuit reform bill he said he supported.

Now it’s payback time. Last week Governor Henry went on an exotic fishing cruise off the coast of Brazil with more than a dozen trial lawyer pals. They booked into the Tropical Manaus Hotel in Ponta Negra, Brazil, a highly-rated venue for deep-sea fishing tours. The governor insists he’s paying his own way: $4,500. But this is a group of long-time contributors to the Henry for Governor campaigns.

Moore notes that one of Henry’s shipmates was Shawnee attorney Terry West, the former president of the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association, and members of the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission, which is supposed to keep an arm’s length from the governor. KTOK radio had a report last week:

“I’m shocked that he would do it under any circumstances,” said [state Sen. James] Williamson, the author of the tort reform bill vetoed by the Governor five months ago. “But it’s doubling shocking after him vetoing this legislation not too many months ago.”

In our experience, shots of beach resorts have ways of ending up in campaign commercials.

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