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Trial lawyers' legislative wish-list

The state’s trial lawyers have released their legislative agenda for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. The wish-list seeks to advance protections for injured people who sue, reduce what it sees as heavy-handed criminal laws, resist “tort reform,” and narrow the use of the death penalty.

Here are some of the highlights:

Lawyer winners & losers in the post-election haze

Now that the dust has settled from Tuesday’s election, what’s it all mean for the legal community? N.C. Lawyers Weekly has come up with a list of winners and losers. Here’s a sampling:

Trial lawyers PAC picks Ervin in N.C. Supreme Court race

The N.C. trial lawyers political action committee is putting is money behind state Supreme Court candidate Judge Sam Ervin IV, a Democrat seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Justice Paul Newby.

The N.C. Advocates for Justice also endorsed two Democrats and a Republican for the state Court of Appeals. The PAC picked incumbent Judge Cressie Thigpen over Raleigh attorney Chris Dillon; incumbent Judge Linda McGee over Raleigh attorney David Robinson, and District Court Judge Marty McGee over incumbent Judge Wanda Bryant. 

Republican takes trial lawyer leadership post

Trial lawyers, who for years have been politically aligned with Democrats, found themselves in a hole when Republicans took control of the legislature this year.
But the political turnover has apparently led to more opportunities for Republican trial attorneys.

Danny Glover, an Elizabeth City lawyer, is the new Legislative Vice President for the N.C. Advocates for Justice. The first words in the press release about his selection are "Republican attorney."

Glover succeeds non-Republican Raleigh lawyer David Kirby in the post.

Part of Glover's job is making sure legislators get information about topics of interest to the organization.

The group had a setback this year when the legislature passed a law limiting jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits.

“Our goal is to protect the rights of all North Carolinians," Glover said in a statement.

"Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or independent, justice should apply equally to everyone.  Unfortunately, in some cases, the General Assembly has turned its back on our constitution and destroyed many of the rights of badly injured people."

Trial lawyers running media campaign

The trial lawyers are running TV and radio ad campaign in their effort to defeat a bill that would cap jury malpractice awards for pain and suffering.

The North Carolina Advocates for Justice has been running one radio ad featuring Raleigh attorney Joe Knott, a Republican attorney.

“The legislature is in town and mischief is afoot,” Knott says. “The legislature is bout to make negligent medical care in the ER legal.”

A TV ad says a woman mistakenly had a double mastectomy because a doctor switched her biopsy slides.

The malpractice bill, which caps non economic damages at $250,000, is expected to be considered by the full Senate next week.

Isley to lobby for trial lawyers

Former Raleigh City Councilman Philip Isley, a Republican, is the new lobbyist for N.C. Advocates for Justice — a trial lawyers group largely associated with Democrats, reports Ray Martin.

Isley, a 43-year-old attorney, represented northwest Raleigh on the City Council for eight years before opting not to seek re-election in 2009. Find out more about his plans over on Martin's blog, The Raleigh Report.

Independent crime lab?

Call for changes at SBI crime lab: Some legislators and the N.C. Advocates for Justice, an association of civil and defense lawyers, wants the state to fund an independent lab not controlled by law enforcement. An N&O series detailed cases where agents ignored evidence or tailored reports to help prosecutors. (N&O) (N&O)

Pay too much state tax? Too bad: A recent policy change makes it less likely that people who mistakenly overpay state taxes will get their money back. (N&O)

Perdue delivers bucks for govs: Gov. Bev Perdue's call on corporate executives for donations resulted in the largest fundraiser of its kind for the Democratic Governors Association. (N&O)

Holder to address trial lawyers event

Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Wilmington Saturday morning to speak to the annual convention of the N.C. Advocates for Justice.

Holder will speak at the five-day convention that is being held at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, Rob Christensen reports.

“Eric Holder can address the issues facing our judicial system as well as anyone in the country, from indigent defense to the prosecution of enemy combatants,” said Dick Taylor, the CEO of the trial lawyers group.

Holder to headline lawyers conference

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is lined up to speak to the N.C. Advocates for Justice, the heroic-sounding alias for the state's trial lawyers, at their convention in Wilmington in June.

Holder is the luncheon speaker on Saturday, June 19, the second of a six-day convention that includes a variety of workshops, continuing legal education and fun outings, including the "Haunted Pub Crawl," that Dome guesses may be linked to a DWI law class.

The event's keynote speaker is Bryan Stevenson, who heads the Equal Justice Initiative, in Montgomery, Ala., who has led efforts that have overturned dozens of death sentences involving low income and minority defendants.  

Lawyers lash out at Perdue

The state's trial lawyers association lambasted Gov. Bev Perdue for her public criticism of a judicial decision involving inmate sentenced to life terms in the 1970s.

Perdue attacked the state court system Monday, hours after a Superior Court judge ruled that two inmates sentenced to life in the 1970s were due for release because of recent court rulings and credits for good behavior, Mandy Locke reports.

Perdue expressed anger and told reporters that "government and the courts" were not supposed to work this way.

David Pishko, president of the N.C. Advocates for Justice, an association of trial lawyers, said in a statement that Perdue's comments were "unacceptable."

"It is entirely unacceptable for Governor Perdue to attempt to pressure trial judges and appellate judges by her irresponsible remarks. Matters of law such as these issues should be determined based on the constitution, the law and the facts. Governor Perdue’s remarks appear to be an intolerable effort to sway the trial courts and appellate courts to get a result she wants rather than a result mandated by the law."

Update: A spokeswoman for the governor said that the state has appealed the Monday's court ruling, a right prescribed in the justice system.

"Allowing these inmates out would be the first time in North Carolina history that anyone sentenced to life would be released without the review and recommendation of the parole commission," Chrissy Pearson, a spokeswoman for Perdue said. "The governor continues to believe this is not how government is supposed to work and this is not the right move for the North Carolina justice system or the people of North Carolina."

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