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September 3 2015

Common Sense Reforms Needed for Our "Justice" System

Carrie L. Lukas

A bit of good news in a rather dry season:  As the Wall Street Journal wrote this week, the Administration has begun acknowledging how occupational licensing regimes are needless barriers to job creation, raise prices, and often do nothing in terms of advancing the public interests. 

It’s about time.  IWF has written about this issue before, and the Institute for Justice has been the leader on this issue for years.  Let’s hope this is the beginning of some actual bipartisan progress in reforming these bureaucratic regimes that make it harder for people (particularly people with less formal education) to get jobs.  We could use a little of the American Dream being brought back to life.

If anyone on the Left is interested in exploring other common sense ideas that ought to enjoy bipartisan support, they should learn more about the pressing need for litigation reform.  Perhaps it is too much to expect the Left to move on broad legal reform, such as reforms to discourage class action suits or embrace loser pays principles.  They could get their feet wet, though, by trying to address one relatively unknown, but very significant, area of the law that could sorely use reform:  patent disputes.

I’ve written in Forbes about how patent trolls abuse the legal process by sending threatening letters in an attempt to cajole businesses, large and small, to pay them to go away.  Given that fighting any legal battle can be expensive, many business make a cost-benefit analysis and end up forgoing any legal process and just paying up.    

Contributing to this problem is that there are some legal jurisdictions that favor patent cases, making it highly profitable for the trolls and problematic for the businesses. As Mytheos Holt wrote on Townhall:  

…one specific East Texas district court has become infamous for its disproportionately favorable treatment of plaintiffs in patent cases, even going so far as to foreclose constitutional protections to defendants with procedural hurdles.

The town where all this takes place – Marshall, TX – has become quite prosperous as a result of their courtroom’s status as a hanging judge for multibillion dollar companies.

The story goes on to explain how the people of the town have built a profitable-industry to support patent troll legal cases, making it much more likely that it won’t be justice – but moneyed interests – that are served.

This isn’t how things are supposed to work.  And it isn’t just multibillion dollar companies that are harmed by legal abuses, but small businesses that are the least likely to be able to afford the payments much less a protracted legal battle.  In fact, we all end up facing higher prices as a result of this economic drain on legitimate companies.

We need legislation to prevent this obvious abuse of the legal system.  The good news is that there are proposals out there to make changes, such as requiring that lawsuits are filed in districts with some relationship to the issue at hand.  That—along with other reforms to require that patent trolls are truthful in their communications with businesses and to facilitate the dismissal of frivolous cases—would be a much needed dose of common sense to our legal system. It would also take pressure off of legitimate companies and entrepreneurs trying to build businesses and create jobs, could bring down prices a bit for the rest of us, and make our system more just. 

Surely that’s a cause that deserves by bipartisan support, right? 

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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