Leave the places of the trials to the courts |

Given the political structure of the state, it is natural to think of the Legislative Assembly in terms of major political parties. But that’s only part of the story. Individual legislators are often wholly owned subsidiaries of much narrower interests – gas, guns, unions, etc.

These interests pay millions of dollars to lobbyists and campaign contributions to enshrine their preferences in law. It’s why Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state that doesn’t impose an extraction tax on natural gas, why the state allows teachers to strike, and so on. The public interest usually plays second fiddle to the narrow interests that set the tone.

Now comes State Rep. Rob Kauffman of Franklin County, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, with a proposal to take this special interest power to an absurd new level.

The state constitution, like the United States Constitution, establishes three separate and equal branches of government – ​​legislative, executive, and judicial. Kauffman proposes a constitutional amendment whereby the legislature could trample the judiciary in favor of the insurance industry and other corporate interests, at the expense of those who have pursued those interests.

What is at stake is the location of the civil litigation, the question of where the civil suits are judged. This was a major problem in the 1990s and early 2000s, when the insurance and health care industries argued that litigators, representing people alleging medical malpractice, were “selling places” to file cases in counties where they were most likely to succeed and with a track record. large payments. Basically, that meant Philadelphia.

The state Supreme Court issued a rule in 2002 that civil lawsuits must be filed in the county where the alleged injury occurs. But Kauffman wants the Legislative Assembly – 253 politicians – to take over decisions on the premises now handled by judges.

Pennsylvanians who have a constitutional right to a fair trial would instead be entitled to a trial in a location determined by politicians beholden to the powerful interests pursued.

It is a travesty of justice and equal treatment before the law. Kauffman should abstain, or his colleagues should appeal to what remains of their respect for the democratic separation of powers, and kill the proposal.

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