Saturday, November 17, 2007

Some professors engaged with me very reasonably

A professor in Texas wrote me:

Dear Mr. Shattuck,

The most massive tort reforms in Texas history--indeed, perhaps in the history of any state--occurred in the 2003 legislative session in the form of a massive, 64 page pro-defense bill known as HB4. Insurance companies successfully lobbied for a change in the Texas Constitution, voted on by Texas voters, that immunizes one portion of the bill--limits on noneconomic damages--from constitutional scrutiny under the Texas Constitution.

I teach not only Torts law as it has developed in various states, but also focus in Torts II on Texas statutory law, as most of our graduates will practice law in Texas. Torts II encompasses scrutiny of HB4 and the significant changes it has made to Texas Torts law.

Absolutely, I have and will continue to teach students about important reform issues as they impact citizens and businesses across the country.

I look forward to the Cheney/Edwards debates and anticipate that they will prove interesting, particularly as (or if) they touch on the subject of Edwards' practice as a plaintiffs' trial lawyer.

What is the genesis of your interest in the subject? I looked at your profile on the internet, and it states that you are a tax attorney.


I replied with:

Dear Professor ______,

Thank you very much for your reply.

I retired from the practice of law a year and a half ago. As a citizen, I have strongly believed for a number of years that substantial tort law reform is needed. I am aware that progress is being made, but I think there is still a long way to ago. I have endeavored to articulate the case against plaintiffs' lawyers in my own words and append below two of my past writings. I, like you, think this debate is worthy of getting more in front of the public's consciousness at this time by reason of the Edwards candidacy and I am making various efforts in that regard.

Again, thank you for your reply.


Another professor wrote me:

Mr. Shattuck –

Thanks you for your email. I have always taught the course as a common law course (to first semester torts students – many of whom need exposure to the institutional context of litigation and the goals of the torts system, as well as the content of the common law) and teach it almost entirely from the Franklin and Rabin casebook (probably one of the leading casebooks used in law schools today). I hope that my students see the study of torts as focused more on classic and durable problems in tort law, rather than on issues relating to 2004 election. Of course, throughout the course I always try to integrate into discussion of the common law many broad issues of contemporary policy importance in the legislative realm – federal preemption, punitive caps, compensation for pain and suffering, the role of the jury, the scope of strict liability and burden shifting – but I do not plan focusing any classroom discussion on hypothetical or pending tort reform legislation. I also do not intend to specifically devote any classroom discussion to the 2004 presidential candidates or their platforms. If a tort reform of some sort does come up (and sometimes students do ask about them), we may discuss consistencies/inconsistencies with common law doctrines and in particular with certain general goals of the tort system, as well as potential effects in incentives and behavior, but I certainly don’t see my role as discussing the merits/demerits of policies that are the subject of a current political campaign. I would welcome any suggestions you might have for coverage or reading materials. Thank you.



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