Center for America

State Profile

 
 

Florida

 

Bush Deputy Chief of Staff Tapped to Lead

Florida Justice Reform Institute

William Large selected by FJRI’s board of directors to lead charge toward common sense justice reforms

Sept. 7, 2005  Tallahassee, FL. – The Florida Justice Reform Institute (FJRI) will continue its aggressive pursuit of judicial fairness and balance under the leadership of its newly selected president, William Large, former deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush.

 

FJRI is Florida’s leading organization committed to meaningful and long-term legal reforms that will benefit all Floridians. The organization will benefit from Large’s extensive experience in legal reform issues.

 

Large assumed his new position at FJRI on Monday, Sept. 12. Before becoming a deputy chief of staff, Large served as one of Bush’s chief counselors as lawmakers negotiated reforms of the state’s medical malpractice laws. As the Department of Health’s general counsel from March 2000 until June 2004 and director of the Governor’s Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance, Large played a vital role in ensuring the Governor’s medical malpractice reform initiatives were approved by the Florida Legislature.        Read Full Story

 

Florida Leadership Mobilizes for Major Legal Reform Campaign

March 15, 2005-  Just one week after his State of the State address, Florida Governor Jeb Bush took center stage at a March 15th Tallahassee rally organized by Florida’s newest legal reform organization, Florida Justice Reform Institute (FJRI), an independent coalition of business, medical and consumer advocates led by some of the state's top CEOs.  

 

The event, which took place in the Capitol Courtyard, brought together many key figures from state and national organizations. National and state leaders such as Governor Jeb Bush, CFO Tom Gallagher, Senate President Tom Lee, House Speaker Allan Bense and Center for America Chairman Steve Hantler and President Dan Pero attended the rally and spoke in support of civil justice reform. American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce (below) acted as master of ceremonies and introduced the speakers.

 

“Lawsuit abuse is one of the greatest threats to Florida’s robust business climate. Several states have enacted tort reform recently, and without significant action, Florida risks falling behind and jeopardizing its jobs-friendly business climate,” Governor Bush said. “I look forward to working with the House and Senate this session on these important civil justice issues.”  Download Governor Bush's news release with specifics of provisions he supports   Read full story

Update: Governor Bush Urges Legislature to pass Reform
April 13, 2005- Florida Governor Jeb Bush sends a memo to the Florida Legislature urging them to pass the Joint & Several Liability Bill that has been presented to them. Read Full Memo

Florida Leadership Mobilizes for Major Legal Reform Campaign

by Kristyn Shayon

 

March 15.  Just one week after his State of the State address, Florida Governor Jeb Bush took center stage at a March 15th Tallahassee rally organized by Florida’s newest legal reform organization, Florida Justice Reform Institute (FJRI), an independent coalition of business, medical and consumer advocates led by some of the state's top CEOs.  

 

The event, which took place in the Capitol Courtyard, brought together many key figures from state and national organizations. National and state leaders such as Governor Jeb Bush, CFO Tom Gallagher, Senate President Tom Lee, House Speaker Allan Bense and Center for America Chairman Steve Hantler and President Dan Pero attended the rally and spoke in support of civil justice reform.  American Tort Reform Association President Tiger Joyce acted as master of ceremonies and introduced the speakers.  

 

“Lawsuit abuse is one of the greatest threats to Florida’s robust business climate. Several states have enacted tort reform recently, and without significant action, Florida risks falling behind and jeopardizing its jobs-friendly business climate,” Governor Bush said. “I look forward to working with the House and Senate this session on these important civil justice issues.”  Download Governor Bush's news release with specifics of provisions he supports

 

Pam Philp, Executive Director of FJRI, said, “Florida’s economic future depends on meaningful civil justice reform. We must all unite and work together with state leaders from both chambers and the executive branch to stop lawsuit abuse.”

 

Governor Bush announced on Monday that he supports several of the legal reform proposals, including requiring a plaintiff’s attorney in a class-action suit to be solely and personally liable for all of a defendant’s costs should the attorney reject a settlement offer, and requiring class action suits to be filed in the county where the alleged event took place, or where the defendant’s principal place of business is located.  According to current laws, class action suits can be filed anywhere in the state where the defendant maintains an office. Often, this leads to the suit being moved to a more pro-plaintiff jurisdiction.

 

During the rally, CFA Chairman Steve Hantler (right), an expert on legal reform and an outspoken supporter of state legal reform organizations such as the Florida Justice Reform Institute, praised Governor Bush for his “leadership on legal reform here in Florida” and went on to say that “common sense legal reforms at both the state and federal levels that fairly balance the needs of consumers and business will restore fairness and predictability to our badly broken tort system without restricting access for legitimate claims.”

 

CFA President Dan Pero (left) said of Florida’s current litigation environment, “Florida can’t stand idly by and just watch its neighbors in the South make their states better places to live and do business”. He also commented about the importance of support from a diverse group of Florida’s citizens, both consumers and businesses, in order to “build a stronger future for Florida”.

 

The Towers Perrin “Tort System 2004 Update” reports that the U.S. tort system costs $845 dollars per person, and $3,400 for a family of four in what the FJRI calls a “litigation tax”.  Reforming the tort system in Florida is just one of many steps to fixing the system, but the rally sends a clear message that there is a coalition of state and national organizations prepared to implement a strong campaign in favor of the measures pending in Florida.

 

Some legislative observers believe that passing the reform bills will be an uphill fight. Governor Bush’s support for tort reform in Florida is seen as critical as the state’s legislative session gets underway. By appearing today, he has made it clear that he intends for Florida to fall in line with President George W. Bush’s pro-reform vision for America. 

 

Although it remains to be seen how supportive House and Senate Leadership will be to the Governor’s pro-reform platform, the FJRI rally is seen a key turning point in bringing legal reform advocates together in a coordinated campaign to reform Florida’s current abusive legal environment.  With the support and involvement of many Florida CEOs, business groups are starting to work together instead of fighting over marginal differences in their respective proposals.

 

Proponents are gearing up for a major campaign. FJRI has begun airing the first 30-second TV spot, entitled "In the Name of Justice", on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, 60 Minutes, The Usual Suspects, and other broadcast and cable programs. This inaugural commercial is complemented by a 60-second radio spot entitled "For the Sake of Justice" and a full-page ad in the Tallahassee Democrat. Additional media markets will be rolled out as well.  Watch FJRI Television commercial and listen to Radio commercial.

 

"We are taking our message from the courtroom to the court of public opinion because lawsuit abuse is hurting our small businesses, our access to healthcare and real victims, affecting everyone with higher costs and greater uncertainty," FJRI Executive Director Pam Philp said at the rally. "It's a legal lottery that's painted a bulls-eye on the state of Florida, and everyone who lives here."

 

Key business organizations outside Florida are focusing attention on the need for reform in the state as well. In a statement last week, the American Insurance Association (AIA) called for change – especially in Florida.  AIA Southeast Region VP Cecil Pearce said, “AIA is pleased that Gov. Jeb Bush has made tort reform one of the top priorities of his final two years in office.  We will be working with our civil justice coalition partners to bring stability and fairness back to the legal environment in Florida.”

 

Across the South, many state legislatures are moving swiftly to consider legal reform bills during their current sessions. Mississippi and Georgia have successfully passed comprehensive tort reform into law, and South Carolina may follow suit. 

 

Contributor

Kristyn Shayon

Director of Communications

CFA@lawexec.com

 

If you know of or have authored an article or report that deserves recognition among corporate and public policy leaders, please send an email to LegalReform@lawexec.com.  Original material © 2005 Center for America.

 

 

 Legal Reform Partners and Resources

 

Associated Industries of Florida

 

Florida Justice Reform Institute

 

Florida Justice Reform Institute Legislative Update

 

Florida Chamber of Commerce

Resources

 

State Senate Profile

 

State House of Representatives Profile

 

State Supreme Court Analysis

 

State Tort Law Profile

 

Governor's Website

 

Senate Website

 

House Website

 

Attorney General Website

 

Florida Public Opinion Survey on Legal Reform