May 9, 2012
Victor Schwartz speaking at an ALEC Civil Justice Task Force in 2010, seated alongside Rep. Bill Seitz (R OH) – on Tort Reform (from an anonymous source)
For years Victor Schwartz, an attorney and top lobbyist for the law firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon (SHB) has held the influential post of Chairman of the Civil Justice Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He is assisted by an “adviser” , Mark Behrens – also an attorney and lobbyist with SHB;
“Washingtonian magazine has listed Mr. Behrens as of the “top lawyers” in the District of Columbia and Business Insurance named him to its 2004 “40 under 40” list. Mr. Behrens also acts as co-chair of the Federalist Society’s Tort and Product Liability Subcommittee; counsel to the Coalition for Litigation Justice; and advisor to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Civil Justice Task Force.”
For months, ALEC has come under fire from many groups, individuals and journalists for their interference with state legislative processes, writing pro-corporate legislation and policies that disenfranchise American voters. 15 top U.S. companies recently dropped their membership in ALEC as have more than 30 state lawmakers under pressure from the media and activists.
Schwartz has helped ALEC draft and adopt model legislation to “reform” state tort laws and establish policies limiting consumer protections, protect companies from asbestos litigation and limit recovery in cases of product failure(s) and drug related injuries or medical malpractice – but by far one of the key initiatives Schwartz has been pushing is asbestos legislation he helped develop with ALEC to assist one of his key clients - Crown Cork and Seal Co. (CC&SC) – to avoid paying settlements for asbestos contamination.
For nearly a decade, Schwartz has fought in many states on behalf of CC&SC as both attorney of record as in the above case with SHB representing companies and organizations affiliated with ALEC as an amicus curiae. (One would think that representing one of the parties in a court case, while also representing other “Interested parties” in the same litigation would produce a conflict of interest).
Recently Lawyers.com began to ask questions about ALEC’s status of a charity and their involvement in many areas of tort reform and state legislation. American Association for Justice has also begun to weigh in on the Schwartz/ALEC/SHB relationship and their combined influences. Under pressure to comment about the issues addressed in these articles, ALEC has officially chosen to remain silent, not responding to requests for statements or interviews – except for Victor Schwartz, who issued a statement denying he or SHB are members of ALEC. When asked for more, he responded with no comment.
Whether a member or not, Schwartz represents ALEC as their private sector chair of the Civil Justice Task Force and has held that position off and on for over a decade. He has been instrumental in advancing ALEC’s pro-corporate “free-market” agenda. Schwartz has personally done more to cripple consumer rights than possibly any other individual – or group.
Just nine months ago Schwartz was interviewed in New Orleans (for the ALEC Annual Meeting) by a journalist from Think Progress…and defended ALEC in this video interview. Now he is attempting to separate himself and SHB from ALEC.
For those researching SHB, they should look to the Kansas University School of Law and Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s Center for Excellence in Advocacy, operated in the same state as one of ALEC’s primary funding members, Koch Industries. In Kansas, these three groups; SHB, ALEC and the Koch brothers have come together to wield a huge amount of influence in state politics. Shouldn’t Schwartz be proud of all the great work he has done on behalf of this cabal?