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Tort reform possible in new Congress: Advocate

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WASHINGTON--A leading tort reform advocate says concerns about frivolous lawsuits among members of both political parties may lead to discussions about reform despite Democratic control of both houses of Congress.

"We have no illusions about the difficulties of getting legal reform through the new Congress," said Sherman Joyce, president of the Washington-based American Tort Reform Assn. during a discussion of civil justice reform at the Washington Legal Foundation on Thursday.

He noted, though, that both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., had talked about curbing frivolous lawsuits, although in different contexts, during the 2004 presidential campaign. Given some bipartisan concern over frivolous lawsuits, reformers may take the issue to Capitol Hill yet again.

A measure that would have sanctioned lawyers who brought lawsuits deemed groundless in federal courts--the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act--passed the House in the last Congress but faltered in the Senate. "We're anxious to see what the political marketplace will bear," said Mr. Joyce.