For Immediate Release: November 7, 2013
Contact: Katie Gommel
202-965-3500, ext. 6645
Federal Courts Should Not be Rigged in Favor of Corporations
Judicial Conference to Hold Hearing on Proposed Changes to Courts
Washington, DC— The rights of all Americans to access justice and accountability are at risk. American Association for Justice President Burton LeBlanc and other top civil justice advocates will testify today before the Judicial Conference of the United States about proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that would dramatically alter our legal system, making it much more difficult to hold corporations that injure and kill Americans accountable in court.
“These changes would devastate Americans’ access to justice and rig the courts in favor of corporations that violate our rights,” said LeBlanc. “This will further stack the deck against American citizens and small businesses seeking accountability in court.”
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure establish how civil lawsuits are filed, pursued, and tried in federal courts. The proposed Rules changes would limit discovery, decrease the number and length of depositions and remove incentives to preserve critical documents. This will have a chilling effect on civil rights, employment discrimination, bank fraud and environmental cases because the information needed to prove these types of case is often in the sole possession of the corporation.
These changes will also directly impact taxpayers. Cases that allege fraud in government programs would be more difficult to prove. For example, in a case against Momence Meadows Nursing Home and its owner, Jacob Graff, a whistle-blower claimed Graff and the nursing home defrauded the federal government and the state of Illinois by billing Medicare and Medicaid for services that were done so poorly they were essentially worthless to patients. This case required the review of approximately 350 boxes of patient files and company records, all of which were necessary to prove proper care was not documented or provided. Under the proposed Rules, obtaining these documents would be extremely burdensome, maybe even impossible.
“This will force cases to be decided before all the facts are found and brought to light,” added LeBlanc. “If Americans can’t seek justice in the courtroom, what safety information could corporations hide from the public? If no one is accountable, no one is safe.”