Our judicial system was founded on the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, recent Supreme Court rulings have created a civil judicial system where businesses are often presumed guilty until proven innocent. The resulting imbalance has affected our ability to attract and retain businesses. It has especially hurt our small business owners, who cannot afford to fight back against frivolous lawsuits. It is critical we find a way to restore fairness and balance to our broken civil judicial system, and that is exactly what the Missouri Senate has spent much of the first part of session working to accomplish.
Lately, there seems to be a constant tension between the legislative and judicial branches — we pass legislation and the judicial branch interprets it in a way that is inconsistent with our original intent, which prompts us to come back and pass clarifying legislation. This session, we have been working on several tort reform bills that address recent judicial interpretations of our state laws.
I believe tort reform bills are job bills. Smart and substantive tort reform will help create the type of business-friendly environment that entrepreneurs and job creators require, and it will curb frivolous lawsuits, which drive up the cost of doing business for everyone. Frivolous lawsuits discourage business owners from locating here and, for those already here, from expanding their operations. In the medical profession, we have even seen our legal climate push providers to leave the state, with some choosing to leave the profession altogether.
I have often likened balance in our judicial system to a pendulum swinging back and forth. Well, the pendulum has swung so far one way it has become stuck. In fact, the American Tort Reform Association recently rated the City of St. Louis as the No. 1 judicial hellhole in the United States. We need to bring it back to the middle again and restore greater balance to our judicial proceedings. I am glad the Senate has begun having these sensitive and important discussions, and I am hopeful many of these reforms will make it to the governor’s desk.
As always, please feel free to call, email, or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is (573) 751-1415, my email is [email protected] and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.