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List of 'judicial hellholes' stabilizes in 2006


WASHINGTON--The American Tort Reform Foundation's annual list of so-called "judicial hellholes" held steady at six this year, according to the nonprofit Washington organization's report released Wednesday.

The fifth annual report defines judicial hellholes as "places where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants in civil lawsuits."

All of the jurisdictions cited in the 2006 list were the same as 2005, although their order changed to reflect what the researchers considered to be deterioration or improvement in their respective legal climate.

This year's list named West Virginia as the worst "judicial hellhole," followed by South Florida; the Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas; Cook County, Ill.; Madison County, Ill.; and St. Clair County, Ill.

"Overall, the type of extraordinary and blatant unfairness that sparked the Judicial Hellholes project and characterized the report over the past few years has decreased across the board," the report stated. "This improvement is a shared result of shining the spotlight on litigation abuse with this report and wise corrections by both the judicial and legislative branches of state governments. It may also indicate that litigation formerly concentrated in a single jurisdiction has dispersed across wider areas."

The chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Assn. for Justice, which represents the plaintiffs' bar, dismissed the report as "propaganda" in a statement issued a day before the report's issuance.

"To further pad their profits, big corporations using their front group...are once again misleading the public with propaganda to support their case that America no longer needs a civil justice system to hold them accountable for negligence," said Jon Haber.

"The civil justice system is the last resort for those who are injured and the only place every person can get justice when up against the most powerful corporations," Mr. Haber said.

The full report is available at