'Judicial hellhole' is junk journalism
I note the Dec. 19 publication of Mary Ann Cavazos' story "South Texas called a judicial hellhole for 6th straight year." Most reputable papers have stopped printing this garbage. It is strictly a spin document, released with little or no research, and is designed solely to influence future members of juries to vote for corporate and insurance interests, who fund the publishing of the document.
During this year, where the Rio Grande Valley and Texas Gulf Coast earned the second spot of judicial hellholes across the entire country, can you point me to a single eight-figure verdict in Corpus Christi or the Rio Grande Valley?
While I spent much of the year in a Senate race, and thus am not completely up to speed on the issue, I can find no one who can point me to a single million-dollar verdict this year in Corpus Christi. I can find no one who can point me to more than two such verdicts in the Valley this year.
There are more than 1.5 million people in the area covered by the silver medalist in this report. Instead of printing junk fiction pumped out by the PR machines of the American Tort Reform Association, perhaps the Caller-Times should focus its efforts on the good work that earnest, hardworking lawyers across South Texas are doing to protect the constitutional rights and safety of our citizens.
Ford Pintos exploding upon impact, Firestone tires falling apart in the Texas heat, Chrysler minivans ejecting belted children due to poor door latches, hundreds killed and injured at a BP refinery due to gross neglect by corporate chieftans, countless bad drugs pulled from the market because of no effective regulatory controls at the FDA and pharmaceutical companies decisions to place profits over patient's lives (Rezulin, Baycol, Fen-Phen, Vioxx), old ladies subjected to unnecessary second surgeries to replace tainted hip implants. The list goes on and on.
The citizens of the Valley and Gulf Coast have been victimized by poor decisions in corporate boardrooms, favoring greed over safety. Citizens serving on juries in Rio Grande Valley and Texas Gulf Coast have done their constitutional duty, and in doing this most honorable service, have protected their fellow citizens from the unkind actions of others, and have made our country a safer place.
Mass publication of the American Tort Reform Association's garbage is nothing but a veiled campaign by its funders -- large corporations and insurance companies -- to distort and deny common citizens of their right to an impartial trial by jury. This has grave constitutional implications, and discredits those great Americans and Texans who came before us.
In colonial America, the right of colonists to a trial by jury was abrogated by King George in the Stamp Act and the Navigation Act. Our forefathers rose up to secure this and other critical rights of citizenship. The denial of a right to trial by jury is the second grievance in our Declaration of Independence, second only to "taxation without representation." The right to a trial by jury, constantly under attack by the American Tort Reform Association, was fought for by George Washington and our constitutional founders.
It is demeaning to their legacies to print this garbage year after year after year, while ignoring the fine work our fellow citizens do every time they appear to fulfill their constitutional right and duty to serve on a jury in civil cases. When they listen to all the evidence in a court of law, their verdict should be respected and applauded. Instead, the verdict of 12 impartial citizens is slandered by monied interests in this country, who can count on corporate-owned newspaper chains to blindly print their garbage year after year after year. Shame on them and on the Caller Times for consistently agreeing to participate in carrying their water.
Mikal Watts, a native of Corpus Christi, is a trial attorney. His firm, the Watts Law Firm, has offices in Corpus Christi, Edinburg, San Antonio, Austin and Houston.