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Lawmakers form caucus to discuss civil justice


WASHINGTON—A new congressional caucus will provide a bipartisan forum for the discussion and debate of civil justice issues, the group’s co-chairs said Thursday.

The new bipartisan Civil Justice Caucus will not advocate specific pieces of legislation, said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., one of the group’s co-chairs, during a Capitol Hill press conference formally launching the new group. Instead, it will promote a civil justice system that “respects the rule of law and advances the United States’ leadership in innovation, job creation and economic growth.”

In addition, the caucus will work to advance the public’s and members of Congress’ understanding of how civil justice issues impact the country.

Rep. Goodlatte said individual members of the group may introduce or support particular pieces of tort-related legislation.

“This is something that has not gotten the attention it deserves,” said Rep. Goodlatte, noting that liability issues had received little discussion during the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The caucus’ other co-chair, Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., said he often is asked why he, as a Democrat, supports the business community. He said it is a way to bring jobs to his congressional district, which is among the poorer in the nation.

Rep. Goodlatte said he is “very pleased” that the caucus is bipartisan. “It has to be to be effective,” he said.

In an interview after the press conference, Rep. Goodlatte said he found it “disappointing” that discussions of defensive medicine during the health care reform debate did not lead to consideration of liability reform as well. As a result, he and other lawmakers looked to see if there was a caucus that dealt with civil justice issues, and upon finding there was not, decided to form the Civil Justice Caucus.

He also said that the new Congress “will take a more aggressive” look at tort issues than the previous two have.