January 13, 2006

Solid-Gold Rocket Car, Away!

posted by Will Wilson @ 1:42 pm

Wisconsin State Senate Bill 425 would curtail the role of the AG in civil actions. The bill would require the AG to receive gubernatorial go-ahead before launching nuisance suits or dishing contingency contracts. The bill also provides that the Dairy State DOJ repay court costs to public nuisance defendants when those defendants are found not guilty.

The bill’s sponsors claim it would “put some checks and balances” in the way of an Attorney General who increasingly “goes after the very people they [sic] are elected to protect.”

In response, Wisconsin AG Peg Lautenschlager testified that the proposed bill would place “public nuisance out of reach of the law.” She argues, “Even the smallest risk of a financial loss is enough to discourage much-needed action” and that “citizens may sue where there is a public nuisance, but only to deal with injuries peculiar to them and only to protect their own rights.”

Michael Greve’s Harm-Less Lawsuits? addresses the latter issue more thoroughly than itty-bitty AG Watch ever could.

As for the former claim: The highest-office-holding Lautenschlager in the nation would have us believe that her license to sue is worth innocent people bearing the cost of frivolous suits brought against them. In other words, the AG thinks that innocent people should subsidize an AG lawsuit lottery, so that the Attorney General can display only the benefits of worthwhile suits while disowning the costs of bad ones.

This bill would bind the AG only to the extent that the governor would have to agree that the cost of a failed suit be worth the benefit of a successful suit. Without that measure, the AG is free to sue anyone and everyone with little risk.

It would be great if everything in life came without cost. And my solid-gold talking rocket car would certainly think so too.