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A reminder that Republicans can run afoul of tort reform too

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Even amid the ever-shifting alliances of hardball politics, there are some loyalties you generally can rely on. You know, like how the environmentalists, the abortion-rights advocates and the trial lawyers are generally in the Democrats’ corner. And the gun owners, the right-to-lifers and the fossil fuelers — to say nothing of the tort reformers — will line up with the GOP. And yet, from time to time, politicians can wind up out of sync with their own party’s allegiances.

This week, the GOP-friendly Colorado Civil Justice League gently took some legislative Republicans to task. The League, which fights what it contends is runaway litigation and lawsuit abuse, challenged the lawmakers over bills on a couple of conventionally Republican causes — because both measures rely for their enforcement, at least in part, on the threat of litigation.

From the League’s blog:

Senate Bill 281 (by Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, and Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton) aims to punish local governments that fail to enforce federal immigration law – aka “sanctuary cities.”

Senate Bill 284 (by Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, and Sen. Marble) would require that health care providers present women who are considering an abortion with certain information about their pregnancies and health care options.

Both of those issues are squarely outside CCJL’s policy purview — unless the bills use private lawsuits as an enforcement mechanism. That’s why CCJL opposes both bills, so long as the personal injury lawsuit provisions remain.

It should be noted SB 284 failed to get enough votes this week to make it out of the GOP-run Senate and certainly wouldn’t have survived the Democratic-controlled House.

The League goes into detail about its opposition:

Under SB 281, if a crime is committed by someone determined to be an illegal alien, crime victims would be allowed to sue the local jurisdiction for damages. Ironically, crime victims cannot sue state or local governments for criminal acts committed by legal residents. That is, you cannot sue the police department for failure to prevent a crime.

…SB 284 includes a “kitchen sink” provision that allows someone who suffers a “loss or injury” due to an abortion provider’s failure to provide required information to sue for “damages, punitive damages, treble damages, and such equitable remedies as the court may deem appropriate.” Translation: sue for everything your lawyer can dream up!

As the blog post concludes:

Government’s job is to see that laws are followed, so lawmakers should enforce the law through state agencies, not by unleashing an army of personal injury lawyers to do their bidding.

It’s a case of competing party tenets side-swiping one another, and for the League, the prevailing priority is curbing unnecessary litigation. And, by the way, the league will work with any Democrats who wish to rein in lawsuits, as well.

Its executive director is longtime GOP luminary Mark Hillman, a former Senate majority and minority leader (and, briefly, the boss of this blogger years ago when he served as a legislative staffer). So, Hillman understands Republican sensibilities all the way around the table.

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