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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:

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 showed their love to Perdue

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue got an substantial influx of political contributions from trial lawyers in June as she was considering whether to veto a medical malpractice bill making its way through the Republican legislature.

Between January and May 31, Perdue received $139,441 in campaign contributions from lawyers, according to her campaign report for the first six months of the year that was filed with the State Board of Elections.

But in June,  lawyers donated $151,209  into her campaign as it became clear the medical malpractice bill was likely to pass, according to campaign records. She vetoed the bill on June 24th, but the legislature over rode her veto July 25th.

A significant amount of the money came from trial attorneys who were opposed to the cap on “non economic” damages of $500,000 in most instances.

Among the June contributors to Perdue were attorneys Bob Bollinger of Charlotte ($1,000), Brian Peterson of Asheville($500), Celeste Harris of Winston-Salem ($1,000), Charles Mast of Smithfield ($1,000) Chuck Monnett III of Charlotte ($1,000) Charles Hardee of Greenville ($1,000) Christopher Roberts of Greenville ($1,000) and Gina Cammarano of Raleigh ($2,500.)

Trial lawyers hire Helms strategist (or hell freezes over)

The trial lawyers have hired Carter Wrenn, the long-time political strategist for former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, to help them with the new GOP legislature.

The trial lawyers, now known as the N.C. Advocates for Justice, have long been closely aligned with the Democrats. But with the Republicans taking control of the legislature, the trial lawyers have been seeking to adopt to their new political political environment.

“We have been traditionally been connected with the Democratic leadership of the legislature,” said Dick Taylor, the the CEO of the NC Advocates for Justice. “But the new reality is we want the smartest, most effective thinkers about the Republican majority and what sort of messaging would appeal to them.”

Wrenn, who most recently was the strategist for Tea Party-supported candidate Renee Ellmers (who defeated Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge), will help the trial lawyers with strategy. The trial lawyers also recently announced they were hiring former Raleigh City Councilman Philip Isley a Republican, to lobby for them.

They are also retaining their Democratic lobbyists, Paul Pulley and Randolph Cloud.

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