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The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America’s Rule of Law

Tuesday January 2003


Walter K. Olson Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Introductory Remarks: Hon. Richard Thornburgh, Former Attorney General of the United States & Former Governor, State of Pennsylvania

Today’s class-action lawyers are carving out a new and dangerous role for themselves within our society, trying to join the existing three branches of the U.S. government as an unofficial and unaccountable fourth branch.

Not content with the record-shattering $246 billion dollar tobacco settlement and immense winnings in asbestos suits, they have taken aim against HMOs, gun makers, lead paint manufacturers and many other companies recently, in search of large settlements. Soon they will be going after such targets as fast food chains, makers of video games, liquor distributors and gambling operators.

They are taking into their own hands the power to create and shape new expansions of the law, a governmental power long denied to anyone but legislators. The widely recognized author of the 1991 book, The Litigation Explosion, Walter Olson has been a key advisor to George W. Bush on tort reform. He also edits the popular website The Rule of Lawyers presents a devastating critique of the current wave of class action and mass tort litigation, and is a clarion call for reform.