WV CALA releases 'Dirty Dozen' list, candidates funded by trial lawyers

By David Yates | Apr 29, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - A West Virginia legal reform group has released its "Dirty Dozen" list highlighting candidates funded in part by trial lawyers.

The driving force behind compiling the list, Greg Thomas, executive director for West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, says the list identifies the candidates who have accepted the most lawsuit industry money.

"Some millionaire personal injury lawyers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect candidates who support their 'sue and settle' agenda, who are supportive of more causes of actions that flood our legal system with lawsuits, and who oppose legal reforms that would attract job creators to our state," Thomas said of the list, released Monday.

"West Virginia is not for sale; and West Virginia voters deserve to know which candidates are being funded by the greed of these personal injury lawyers."

Ranked number one on the 'Dirty Dozen' list is state Sen. Donald Cookman. A Democrat representing District 15 and a former circuit judge, Cookman has accepted nearly $30,000 in contributions from personal injury lawyer interests.

Every candidate that made the list is a Democrat.

Two personal injury lawyers ranked high on the list.

Michael Romano (Senate District 12) accepted nearly $25,000 in personal injury lawyer contributions, and incumbent state Sen. Rocky Fitzsimmons (Senate District 1) accepted nearly $23,000 from the personal injury lawyers.

Romano is the former president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

The majority of the list is made up of incumbents, including:

* House Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin (House District 50, $8,000);

* House Speaker Tim Miley (House District 48, $6,000);

* House Majority Whip Mike Caputo (House District 50, $5,000);

* State Sen. Ron Miller (Senate District 10, $4,000); and

* Delegate Justin Marcum (House District 20, $4,000)

Several non-incumbent legislative candidates made the list, including personal injury lawyers: * Richard Lindsay (House District 37, $11,000);

* Holli Smith (House District 3, $9,000);

* Andrew Byrd (House District 35, $8,000); and

* Michael Woelfel (Senate District 5, $6,000).

As Thomas noted, West Virginia has been listed on the American Tort Reform Foundation's "Judicial Hellhole" list for 10 years.

"A greedy few profit from West Virginia's 'jackpot justice' legal system, while most of us end up paying higher prices for goods, losing access to important medical and community services and lose out on opportunities for well-paying jobs," Thomas said.

"Having a legislature that will fight lawsuit abuse is a must because employers create jobs in states where the legal system is fair."

The "Dirty Dozen" list was compiled based on WV CALA's review of state campaign finance records for the 2014 primary first reporting period, which ended March 28.

From Legal Newsline: Reach David Yates at elections@legalnewsline.com

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