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Supreme Court Candidates Express Concerns about Lawsuit Fairness in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, LA – Both candidates for Louisiana’s 4th District Supreme Court race acknowledge that there are problems in Louisiana’s courts. Comments by the two candidates, Marcus Clark and Jimmy Faircloth, were in response to a candidate survey released today by Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW).

When asked whether or not frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards are a systemic problem in Louisiana courtrooms Fourth District Judge and candidate Marcus Clark responded, “There are many courtrooms where frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards are allowed and awarded. This has not happened in my courtroom because my philosophy is to apply the law as written and give a reasonable meaning when interpretation is necessary…” Clark also objected to use of the term, systemic, in the question, saying, “Systemic means affecting the whole body.”

Responding to the same question, candidate Jimmy Faircloth, who until recently served as Governor Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel, said, “I agree there are too many poorly trained lawyers, too much unnecessary litigation, and too few judges willing to demand more integrity and accountability…” Faircloth also said, however, “I am not a fan of gross generalizations about the legal system.”

The LLAW survey also asked each of the candidates to describe, “what distinguishes you, your philosophy and your experience from your opponent?”

Faircloth responded, “I am distinguished from my opponent in many ways. First, my academic performance and rigor exceeds that of my opponent. Second, my opponent has never practiced law in the private sector. His experience is limited to criminal prosecutions in a single district court, where he has since has served as a trial judge. By comparison, I have extensive experience at every level of the state court system and many levels of the federal system. And third, my opponent was a registered Democrat until switching parties to run for this race. I have been a lifelong Republican and my conservative values are proven.”

Clark responded, “I have been a District Judge for thirteen years. My opponent has never been a judge therefore he has no judicial experience. During those thirteen years I have been a student of the law, interpreting it and most importantly making decisions that affect people’s lives on a daily basis. My opponent has had the luxury of representing one side of an issue for his client. A judge does not have that luxury. Cases are not one-dimensional. As a judge I am objective, fair and most importantly independent. I am running unopposed by any judge in twenty parishes based on those qualifications. Because of my philosophy and the respect attorneys have for my work ethic I have been re-elected twice without opposition. My philosophy is not one of expansive construction of the constitution and laws. The creation of new causes of actions is a legislative function not a judicial function. I believe in strict construction of the law and constitution. Judges should follow the law not make it. I have no ties to any special interest group nor do I have any ties to any other branch of our state government.”

“We’re pleased that both candidates took the time to respond to our survey, and we believe their answers are revealing,” said LLAW executive director Melissa Landry. “With less than two weeks left until election day, we’re encouraging our supporters and all voters in the 4th District to go to our website, and the websites of the candidates, and really get to know their views, because good judges matter.”

Landry added, “For citizens living outside the 4th District, one of these two people will be making decisions on our state Supreme Court that affect everyone — all across the state.”

“Judges wield a great amount of power over our lives and pocketbooks,” Landry continued. “They’re on the front lines of many critical decisions that affect our community safety, environment, health care, jobs and schools. They have the power to provide justice for those who have been wronged, and they protect our courts from abuse and junk lawsuits that clog our system and delay justice for the truly injured. That’s why it’s important that we all get to know the candidates and learn about the views that they’ll be bringing to the bench.”

Many national groups have rated Louisiana’s court system as lacking fairness. A Harris Interactive survey of major employers found Louisiana to rank among the worst in the nation, and the American Tort Reform Association has labeled areas of the state as “judicial hellholes” for a lack of objectivity and fairness.

Read the survey responses:

Marcus Clark (PDF)

Jimmy Faircloth (PDF)

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Check out some of 2009’s best articles about lawsuit abuse and reform in Louisiana and across the country. Pay attention to judicial races – December 22, 2009 Defensive medicine is bad for us – Octobe


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