Tort reform group hosts Brown fundraiser

By Legal News Line | Sep 2, 2008

John Sullivan

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-With Attorney General Jerry Brown, a political maverick for more than 30 years, things aren't often what they might seem.

Such was the case last month when the Civil Justice Association of California hosted a fundraiser for the 72-year-old politician who is eying another run for governor of the state he first led back in the 1970s.

CJAC is a non-profit organization that works to change California's civil liability system.

The fundraiser the group hosted for Brown was first reported by The Sacramento Bee, noting that the "left-leaning trial lawyers' lobby probably squirmed a little when its arch enemy, the Civil Justice Association of California, hosted a campaign fundraiser for Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown."

But the move shouldn't be seen as Brown, or CJAC for that matter, taking sides, CJAC President John Sullivan told Legal Newsline. The event was part of an ongoing relationship with Brown that dates back to the group's inception back in 1979.

"He is a part of our association's history," Sullivan said. "We were founded largely with a goal of defending a medical malpractice reform act. He was governor and played a role in that law becoming law. He was there when the true excess of litigation were visited upon the state. He knows the effects in that arena."

Brown certainly has also been involved in his share of lawsuits directed at businesses, the most recent leading the way on a growing number of suits filed by attorneys general against Countrywide Financial Corp. for its alleged predatory lending practices. But Brown's political past, Sullivan said, also gives him practical experience on the other side of the legal conundrum.

"Brown spent some as the very popular mayor of Oakland," Sullivan said. "He there faced lawsuits that were thinly based looking for settlements, faced the problems that not only businesses feel, but also governments. He faced the choice of spending money to make an unjustified lawsuit go away."

That does not mean CJAC will endorse a Brown bid for governor in 2010. The organization does not directly endorse candidates, Sullivan said. The fundraiser was more about continuing a long-standing relationship with Brown, particularly that he is now the attorney general.

"The attorney general is involved in several activities and is someone that we want to stay in touch with," Sullivan said.

Besides, a night with Brown, known for his rapid-fire conversation, quick wit and non-stop energy, is sure to be entertaining. On that scale, Sullivan said, Brown did not disappoint.

"It went very well," Sullivan said of the Aug. 20 fundraiser. "He's always an engaging person to be with."

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