AAJ Calls on Congress to Restore Americans’ Basic Legal Protections

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For Immediate Release: November 19, 2009

Contact: Ray De Lorenzi
202-965-3500, ext. 8369
media.replies@justice.org

AAJ Calls on Congress to Restore Americans’ Basic Legal Protections

Bill introduced in U.S. House today – “Open Access to Courts Act of 2009” – will restore standards required to file court cases back to decades-long precedent

Washington, DCA bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today will restore standards required to file court cases and strengthen Americans’ basic legal protections.  The “Open Access to Courts Act of 2009,” introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), will address recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions – Bell Atlantic v. Twombly (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009) – which irrationally raised the bar for Americans seeking justice in employment, discrimination, and other civil cases.

Since 1938, individuals and businesses could file suit by submitting a short and plain statement, called a complaint, which described the facts of the case.  In Twombly and Iqbal, the Supreme Court created a new interpretation of these rules.  With these vague and subjective legal pleading standards, cases are now being dismissed even before the plaintiff can obtain evidence that would confirm the allegations, a process known as discovery.  This effectively requires people to know more information than they possibly could have access to.

Since many cases are proven because of documents – such as personnel files and internal company memos – uncovered in discovery, these new standards allow negligent corporations to escape accountability while weakening Americans’ basic legal protections.

“Without this bill, access to justice will be denied before people even reach the starting line,” said American Association for Justice President Anthony Tarricone.  “Congress must act to ensure meritorious cases can move forward so wrongdoers won’t escape accountability.”

A bill sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has already been introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 1504) to return these pleading standards to their prior precedent – established in 1957 by the Supreme Court in Conley v. Gibson.

A wide range of groups support the effort to restore legal standards, including:  Alliance for Justice, American Antitrust Institute, American Civil Liberties Union, The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Center for Justice & Democracy, Christian Trial Lawyer’s Association, Committee to Support the Antitrust Laws, Community Catalyst, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Earthjustice, Environment America, Essential Information, The Impact Fund, La Raza Centro Legal, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Association of Shareholder and Consumer Attorneys, National Consumer Law Center, National Consumers League, National Council of La Raza, National Crime Victims Bar Association, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Senior Citizens Law Center, National Whistleblowers Center, National Women’s Law Center, Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Southern Poverty Law Center, Taxpayers Against Fraud, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

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As the world's largest trial bar, the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) works to make sure people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of others—even when it means taking on the most powerful corporations. Visit http://www.justice.org/newsroom.

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