The Lawyer-Media-Government Combine Revealed

By February 12, 2010Briefly Legal

We’ve often described high-profile litigation against U.S. businesses as being pushed by a combine of trial lawyers, activists, a complicit (or lazy) media and government officials. (See the anti-Chevron litigation in Ecuador.) It’s a strategy that litigation industry often uses but rarely acknowledges.

However, John Coale, the well-known plaintiffs’ attorney who made millions from suing tobacco companies, revealed the strategy in a 2000 panel discussion sponsored by the Federalist Society. From “Firearms Litigation, Tort Liability, and the Second Amendment – A Symposium,” Coale’s frank description:

MR. COALE: What I want to do is take you through our strategy. I am going to give you an honest assessment of what we (“we” being the lawyers who have attacked the tobacco industry, and who are now attacking the gun industry) are attempting to accomplish. My group represents five cities in coordination with the other 25 to 30 cities suing the gun industry and is working with several state Attorneys General.

Now, I would preface my remarks with the observation that the other side does the same thing, they just don’t admit it. We take these cases, such as tobacco-back in 1994, and then put together a threepronged attack, legal, media, and political. We attacked on these three fronts for five years until they folded and settled. Whether we would have won the cases in court, we will never know, but the bottom line is that we won the war.

We vilified the industry in the media, which wasn’t hard to do. We leaked damning documents. We worked with our political friends against the tobacco industry in Congress and elsewhere. And then we went into court and we used this three-prong attack against the tobacco industry very effectively. I am sure very few in the audience agree with this strategy, but tobacco was an issue we wanted to win, and we did.

To see examples of the three-pronged attack in action, just read the news releases from the American Association for Justice, the trial lawyer lobby.

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