Wednesday, 23 December 2015 19:13

Jon Bel Edwards tort reform comment shows Leopard with same spots

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louisiana capital 3Incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards throughout his campaign tried to distance himself from his image as a wild-eyed liberal. Yet leopards don’t change their spots, as a recent comment of his validated.

Jon Bel Edwards, tort reform

On perhaps no issue did Democrat Edwards differentiate himself from his GOP rivals than on tort reform. Long an ally of trial lawyers, as one example of his fealty towards them Edwards opposed efforts to remove the ability of state regional bodies to bring suit on matters over which the state or parishes had ultimate policy-making authority, voting against such a measure.

That law specifically applied to the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s attempt to extract money from nearly 100 companies that had explored and extracted oil in its jurisdiction over the decades. It alleged them primarily liable for environmental damage in the billions of dollars despite that science does not corroborate the impact to that extent and with few exceptions had followed the law with the state’s blessing in their activities throughout.

In short, and as admitted by the suit’s ringleaders (most now no longer on the agency’s governing board), they made this nothing more than a grab for money in order to finance the agency’s extensive capital construction plans. They saw producers of wealth and contributors to society as nothing more than fatted calves required for slaughter to further their agenda.

And a remark made by Edwards about the suit in the larger context of tort reform indicates he thinks the same. At the time, he asserted that the Legislature should not act retroactively in such matters, which it does all the time in any event and this law did not affect the ability of private parties to sue but applied only to a small passel of state government and more local governments.

But his objections were more than that, as he recently revealed. “I think the day’s going to come when we’re going to ask Congress to pony up federal tax dollars to fix our coast, and they’re going to be much harder to convince because we will not have done what we could have done locally,” he said.

So, in other words, to have “done what we could have” includes the pursuit of jackpot justice. Meaning that Edwards agrees with the premise that companies that followed the law and received permission from the state should draw punishment regardless from government immediately for actions only tenuously related to the reputed amount of harm caused.

If Edwards feels that environmental damage came from company actions that failed to follow the law (including their issued permits), such as engaging in inadequate remediation or sloppy construction, then to recoup recompense the state should use administrative means, with forays into the judiciary only when exhausting those means, that provides proof of such errors and levied against only those directly responsible for each specific violation. Otherwise, he acts hypocritically by supporting a blanket, retroactive sanction (and one where the monetary value of which bears no relation to the real world damages), a concept he said in a different context that he opposed.

Of course, to do so would take years, perhaps decades, for the state to pursue successfully and would bring in far smaller amounts of money than envisioned. By contrast, Edwards prefers powerful government using the judiciary to take what it wants of the property of the people, justified only by his ideological pretensions of what he sees as desirable public policy.

That demonstrates the latent totalitarianism in liberalism to which Edwards adheres. It tells us all we need to know about his lack of commitment to individual freedom and his faith in the state as arbiter over people. The question that remains is how well we can keep his command and control tendencies on these matters in check over the next four years.


Last modified on Friday, 25 December 2015 02:55
Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

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