Lawyers, Lawsuits, and Legal Rights: The Battle over Litigation in American Society

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University of California Press, Oct 29, 2002 - Political Science - 277 pages
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Lawsuits over coffee burns, playground injuries, even bad teaching: litigation "horror stories" create the impression that Americans are greedy, quarrelsome, and sue-happy. The truth, as this book makes clear, is quite different. What Thomas Burke describes in Lawyers, Lawsuits, and Legal Rights is a nation not of litigious citizens, but of litigious policies—laws that promote the use of litigation in resolving disputes and implementing public policies. This book is a cogent account of how such policies have come to shape public life and everyday practices in the United States.

As litigious policies have proliferated, so have struggles to limit litigation—and these struggles offer insight into the nation's court-centered public policy style. Burke focuses on three cases: the effort to block the Americans with Disabilities Act; an attempt to reduce accident litigation by creating a no-fault auto insurance system in California; and the enactment of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Act. These cases suggest that litigious policies are deeply rooted in the American constitutional tradition. Burke shows how the diffuse, divided structure of American government, together with the anti-statist ethos of American political culture, creates incentives for political actors to use the courts to address their concerns. The first clear and comprehensive account of the national politics of litigation, his work provides a new way to understand and address the "litigiousness" of American society.
 

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Contents

THE BATTLE OVER LITIGATION
22
THE CREATION OF A LITIGIOUS POLICY The Americans with Disabilities Act
60
A FAILED ANTILITIGATION EFFORT The Struggle over NoFault Auto Insurance in California
103
A SHOT OF ANTILITIGATION REFORM The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
142
UNDERSTANDING THE LITIGATION DEBATE
171
Notes
205
Index
261
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Page 24 - Anyone who believes a better day dawns when lawyers are eliminated bears the burden of explaining who will take their place. Who will protect the poor, the injured, the victims of negligence, the victims of racial discrimination and the victims of racial violence?
Page 24 - Does America really need 70 percent of the world's lawyers? Is it healthy for our economy to have 18 million new lawsuits coursing through the system annually?

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About the author (2002)

Thomas F. Burke is Assistant Professor at Wellesley College and Research Fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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