Since its inception in 2002, the American Tort Reform Foundation’s Judicial Hellholes® program has documented in annually published reports various abuses within the civil justice system, focusing primarily on jurisdictions where courts have been radically out of balance.
Traditionally, Judicial Hellholes have been considered places where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants in civil lawsuits. Now, as both technology and the liability-expanding strategies of the nation’s formidable litigation industry evolve, the Judicial Hellholes program must evolve, too. Though it remains focused on judges and the courts, Judicial Hellholes reporting will occasionally expand its focus to the legislative and executive branches’ growing influence on the courts, while moving to a year-round online format that will offer real-time updates and analyses of civil justice developments as they occur.
ATRF annually surveys ATRA members and others with firsthand experience in Judicial Hellholes jurisdictions as part of its research process. Because the program has become widely known, ATRF also continually receives and gathers information provided by a variety of additional sources. After interviewing such sources, Judicial Hellholes reporters work to confirm the information with independent research of publicly available court documents, judicial branch statistics, press accounts, and various studies.
The 2015/2016 Report
Despite the fact that the latest ranking of Judicial Hellholes features ongoing madness in California courts and a historic corruption conviction with connections to New York City’s asbestos court, the biggest headline from this year’s report may be: West Virginia Is No Longer a Judicial Hellhole!
Most jurisdictions, much less an entire state, would not celebrate a Watch List citation, either. But such a designation for the Mountain State, a perennial Judicial Hellhole for many years, represents a significant, even joyous achievement owed to historic legal reforms enacted by state lawmakers in 2015.
Of course, with the state’s high court notoriously inclined to expand liability, and with no intermediate level appellate court, the long-term impact of these reforms remains to be seen as legal challenges are likely. But an uncertain future should not mute in the near-term well- deserved congratulations for a bipartisan majority of West Virginia lawmakers and a governor who decided to put the needs of jobseekers and job creators ahead of the job destroyers of the plaintiffs’ bar.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL REPORT ON WEST VIRGINIA
Click HERE for WVCALA Statement on the 'Judicial Hellholes' Report