Three weeks after an administrative judge for Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas clamped down on the court’s exploding mass tort docket, Philly plaintiffs lawyers are fighting back.
In a six-page letter to the court dated March 5, the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association attacked Administrative Judge John Herron’s reforms as unfair, misguided, and contrary to Pennsylvania law and the U.S. Constitution. Amaris Elliott-Engel of The Legal Intelligencer has the story.
As we’ve reported, Judge Herron adopted the measures on Feb. 15, in response to concerns that the court was becoming a haven for asbestos and other mass tort litigation and being flooded with cases. (The American Tort Reform Association has ranked the court as the country’s top “judicial hellhole” two years running.) Among other things, Judge Herron ordered all mass tort punitive damages claims to be deferred, limited all discovery to Philadelphia except in “exigent circumstances,” limited consolidation of cases for trial, and barred out-of-state pro hac vice counsel from participating in more than two trials per year.
In their March 5 letter, submitted by PTLA president Laura Feldman, the trial lawyers deny that the court’s mass tort docket has gotten out of hand. They argue that deferring punitive damages would require duplicative trials and violate plaintiffs’ right to trial under the state’s constitution. Limiting discovery to Philadelphia, they contend, would conflict with the state’s rules of civil procedure and violate the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Rules that apply only to out-of-state lawyers, meanwhile, “offend at least three constitutional precepts,” including the the commerce and equal protection clauses.
The plaintiffs lawyers asked the court to withdraw those and other measures in Judge Herron’s Feb. 15 order and to appoint a committee of both plaintiffs and defense lawyers to consider other changes.