Archive for the ‘Editorials’ Category

PolitiFact Gives Mary Burke “False” Rating for Claiming that Gov. Walker Repealed Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Act for Women

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

In 2009, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted legislation (2009 WI Act 20), which for the first time imposed punitive and compensatory damages under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Law (WFEL), the law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Before 2009 WI Act 20, the WFEL allowed individuals to sue for back pay, reinstatement of the job, plus compensation for costs of bringing the suit and attorney fees.

WCJC and the entire business community actively opposed Act 20 because it added punitive and compensatory damages that went beyond what was allowed under federal law. Plus, WCJC felt that the current remedies were more than adequate.

During the 2011-12 legislative session, WCJC and the business community supported legislation (2011 WI 219) that repealed the punitive and compensatory damages that were included in 2009 WI Act 20. (Click here to read WCJC’s memo, “Myths vs. Facts” – SB 202: Eliminating Punitive and Compensatory Damages.”)

In the 2012 elections and recall of Gov. Walker, the Democrats used the repeal of the punitive and compensatory damages under the WFEL for the basis of its “War on Women” theme by arguing that Gov. Walker removed “equal pay for women.” Fortunately, PolitiFact (which is a unit of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), saw through this falsehood and labeled such statements as “False.” (Click here and here to view the “False” ratings by PolitiFact.)

Some politicians are once again picking up on the “War on Women” theme and continuing to argue that Gov. Walker repealed the “Equal Pay Act” when he signed into law 2011 WI 219.

Most recently, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke alleged in a press release that Wisconsin is “one of five states without an equal pay law protecting women from gender discrimination in their paycheck.” Ms. Burke based this comment on the repeal of the 2009 punitive and compensatory damages law.

PolitiFact analyzed this statement, and not surprisingly, gave Ms. Burke a “False” rating. In its article, PolitiFact explained how the repeal of the punitive and compensatory damages law did not remove the ability of women to sue for workplace discrimination.

According to PolitiFact:

So the 2009 bill allowed persons to sue in court – and get compensatory and punitive damages – after they had exhausted their administrative cases in the state Department of Workforce Development.

But that 2009 law – the one repealed in 2012 by Walker and the Republicans – was a fairly narrow one focused on tougher enforcement of existing protections for women and other groups.

It did not establish a new set of equal-pay protections – those already were in the Fair Employment law, where they have ben since 1982 and where they remained even after the 2012 repeal.

But while Walker reversed an attempt to toughen up Wisconsin law, its protections against gender discrimination in workplace pay date back decades. The governor’s 2012 action left those in place, albeit without tougher penalties for employers.

We rate Burke’s claim False.

Walker Signs Trust Fund Transparency Bill

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Gov. Walker earlier today signed AB 19, asbestos trust fund transparency, into law as Act 154. The new law allows greater transparency by:

  • Requiring asbestos plaintiffs to disclose any and all claims that they have filed or will file with asbestos trust funds, along with all of the documents and information that support the trust claims.
  • Requiring judges to admit trust claims and supporting materials into evidence at trial; prohibiting plaintiffs from spuriously alleging that trust claims and their supporting documents are privileged.
  • Providing defendants with a powerful tool to ensure that plaintiffs file and disclose all possible claims with asbestos trusts. AB 19 authorizes defendants to identify trust claims that the plaintiff could and should file. If a judge agrees, the case is stayed until that claim is filed and disclosed.

Wisconsin now joins Ohio and Oklahoma by having a law in place that protects businesses from unscrupulous plaintiff attorneys double-dipping against trust funds and suing those solvent businesses that have little, if any, fault.

 

Assembly Passes Asbestos Trust Fund Transparency Legislation

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

The Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday, March 20, passed important legislation that will bring transparency and end double dipping by plaintiff attorneys in lawsuits involving asbestos related claims.

“As a state with a strong manufacturing sector, Wisconsin businesses stand to lose if plaintiff attorneys are not required to disclose key evidence in asbestos lawsuits,” said Scott Manley, Vice President of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council and Vice President, Government Relations, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). “The court deserves to know all the information when awarding damages,” added Manley.

AB 19 will allow greater transparency by:

  • Requiring asbestos plaintiffs to disclose any and all claims that they have filed or will file with asbestos trust funds, along with all of the documents and information that support the trust claims.
  • Requiring judges to admit trust claims and supporting materials into evidence at trial; prohibiting plaintiffs from spuriously alleging that trust claims and their supporting documents are privileged.
  • Providing defendants with a powerful tool to ensure that plaintiffs file and disclose all possible claims with asbestos trusts. AB 19 authorizes defendants to identify trust claims that the plaintiff could and should file. If a judge agrees, the case is stayed until that claim is filed and disclosed.

“We thank the Assembly for passing this landmark legislation,” said Bill G. Smith, WCJC President and NFIB State Director. “Wisconsin joins Ohio and Oklahoma by enacting laws that protect large and small businesses from unscrupulous plaintiff attorneys who double-dip against asbestos trust funds and Wisconsin businesses.”

 

U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform IDs Critical Lawsuit Reforms

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

A new report from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform has identified several issues the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council is working to fix in Wisconsin as critical to improving the nation’s business climate.

The New Lawsuit Ecosystem: Trends, Targets and Players, “examines the developing lawsuit “ecosystem” and areas of litigation of most concern to the business community. The report examines the trends and players in six key litigation areas, offers insights into new emerging liability threats, and explores the growing alliance between state attorneys general and the plaintiffs’ bar.”

U.S. Chamber Applauds Signing of Nation’s Strongest Outside Counsel Sunshine Law

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), issued the following statement applauding Governor Scott Walker for signing into law the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act (AB 27). The law promotes transparency and limits contingency fees when the State of Wisconsin hire outside private plaintiffs’ lawyers. (more…)

Fall 2013 Issue of “The Third Branch” Now Available

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The Fall 2013 edition of The Third Branch, a quarterly publication of the Director of State Courts Office, is now available.

One of many topics covered in this issue is the 35th anniversary of the creation of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

 

Governor Walker Signs Civil Justice Reforms into Law

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Building off of the historic reforms signed into law in 2011-12, Gov. Scott Walker on Friday, December 13 signed three more important civil justice reforms into law. Below is a summary of each bill signed into law by Gov. Walker:

  • Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (AB 27): Authored by Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), AB 27 reins in excessive attorneys’ fees by setting tiers for contingency fees as a percent of recovered amounts ranging from 25% to 5%. Transparency is achieved through the requirement that a copy of the executed fee contract be posted online. In addition, the private attorney must maintain time records and keep detailed records of expenses, disbursements, etc. for four years after the contract terminates.
  • Physician’s Duty of Informed Consent: Overturning Jandre v. Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (AB 139): Authored by Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), AB 139 protects Wisconsin physicians and hospitals from unnecessary and costly lawsuits. Passed on a bipartisan vote, AB 139 overturns a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision and clarifies the proper standard for physicians when informing patients of alternate medical modes of treatment and about the benefits and risks of those treatments.
  • Lemon Law Reforms (AB 200): Authored by Rep. Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), AB 200 removes Wisconsin’s previously dubious reputation of having the worse lemon law in the nation. The new law makes a number of changes, including: 1) eliminating mandatory double damages, 2) adding time for manufacturers to deliver a comparable vehicle, 3) reducing the statute of limitations, 4) adding a good faith requirement, and 5) clarifying what it means for a vehicle to be out of service.

“The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council thanks Gov. Walker for his continued commitment to enhancing the state’s litigation climate and making Wisconsin a more attractive place to start and grow a business,” said Bill G. Smith, WCJC President and State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Bill Protects Wisconsin Businesses in Asbestos Lawsuits

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has published an opinion piece by WCJC officers Bill G. Smith and Scott Manley explaining why SB 13/AB 19, which provides transparency and prevents fraud in lawsuits involving personal injury trusts by creating certain discovery requirements during litigation, is good for Wisconsin businesses. (more…)

Daubert Still the Law Despite Court’s Ruling

Friday, December 6th, 2013

On January 27, 2011, Gov. Walker signed into law 2011 Wisconsin Act 2, which contained numerous civil liability reforms supported by the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council. One of the most important pieces of this legislation was the adoption of the Daubert standards for the admission of expert opinion evidence, bringing Wisconsin in line with the entire federal system and a majority of states.

Thanks to Act 2, Wis. Stat. § 907.02 now requires experts to be qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. Testimony must be based upon sufficient facts or data, it must be the product of reliable principles and methods, and the witness must apply the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

While it is clear that Daubert is now the absolute standard for expert testimony going forward, a recent court of appeals decision highlights the fact that there are still a limited number of cases in which it may not be applied because those cases were ongoing before the new law (Act 2) went into effect. (more…)

ATRA Fall Conference to Highlight Wisconsin Reforms

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council has been the vanguard of the civil justice reform movement in Wisconsin since its 2009 formation. The many reforms championed by WCJC over the past three years will be highlighted by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) at its Annual Legislative Conference for State Coalition Leaders this fall.
(more…)