In the Atlantic's D.C. Dispatch for December 31, 2003, Stuart Taylor's "Asbestos Litigation: Evidence Of Massive Corruption?" profiles an upcoming article in the Pepperdine Law Review by Lester Brickman, alleging not only that marginal or questionable asbestosis claims are being filed, but further that the boom in these cases is the result of overt or implicit corruption of the legal process.
These disturbing contentions come in a 137-page article to be published this month in The Pepperdine Law Review. They suggest at least the possibility of ongoing corruption of the civil justice system on a staggering scale by powerful plaintiffs lawyers, with the help of complaisant judges — many of whom are politically indebted to the lawyers — while the U.S. Supreme Court primly averts its eyes.
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[One of the perversities of this situation is that] forum-shopping lawyers have filed most of the hundreds of thousands of claims generated over the past 15 years in a handful of jurisdictions in Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Illinois. "What I call the 'magic jurisdiction,'" billionaire plaintiffs lawyer Dickie Scruggs of Mississippi once explained with stunning candor (as quoted in The Wall Street Journal), is "where the judiciary is elected with verdict money. The trial lawyers have established relationships with the judges. . . They've got large populations of voters who are in on the deal. . . It's almost impossible to get a fair trial if you're a defendant in some of these places, [no] matter what the evidence or the law is."
This quote comes from "The Tort Tax", an op-ed by Jim Copland, Director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, published in the Journal on June 11, 2003, and reprinted at the MI web site.
I have to say that the quote and the positions it expresses are so blatant that its reliability seems questionable.
A page at Trial Lawyers, Inc., another MICLP arm, adds language to the quote and footnotes the source as follows:
"The cases are not won in the courtroom. They’re won on the back roads long before the case goes to trial. Any lawyer fresh out of law school can walk in there and win the case, so it doesn’t matter what the evidence or the law is."
 Richard Scruggs, Asbestos for Lunch, panel discussion at the Prudential Securities Financial Research and Regulatory Conference (May 9, 2002), in INDUSTRY COMMENTARY (Prudential Securities, Inc., New York), June 11, 2002, at 5.
I cannot find any publication by that name by Prudential Securities (now part of Wachovia). Although I cannot find any hard evidence that the quote is fictitious, it is hard to understand why someone like Scruggs, who practices in Mississippi, would make such a comment to a group of financiers, particularly given his position at the center of the crosshairs.
As Walter Olson has documented over the last couple of years, Scruggs and several other plaintiff's attorneys in Mississippi are under investigation for actual corruption of that state's Supreme Court. See Mississippi Ripples (June 2003), Rumblings in Mississippi (October 2002), and several others linked at this page.