James Copland appears to be pursuing a political campaign against me in The Wall Street Journal ("How the Plaintiffs Bar Bought the Senate," Feb. 9) and repeating it in the Post-Gazette ("Trial Lawyers Still Love Specter," Feb. 15) with respect to three bills I've introduced to protect the rights of Americans to seek justice in our courts.
1) S. 1504 would restore the long-standing statutory rules of "pleading" -- the rules governing what plaintiffs must allege to open the courthouse doors -- that an activist Supreme Court effectively repealed in two recent decisions. Conservative law professor Richard Epstein has acknowledged that the court repudiated 60 years of precedent in those decisions. My legislation has been endorsed by (among others) The New York Times, the NAACP and the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, founded by James Dobson and others. The fund understands what Mr. Copland does not -- conservatives, no less than liberals, should champion our citizens' right of access to the courts.
2) S. 1551 would make aiders and abettors of securities fraud, who are already criminally liable for their acts, civilly liable in damages to their victims. That was established law until the Supreme Court stepped in and immunized them in two decisions. The second decision repudiated the position taken by the last Republican chairman of the SEC, President Bush-appointee Christopher Cox, and his Republican predecessor, William Donaldson. My bill, which is nearly identical to one that Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, introduced, enjoys the support of a leading expert on securities regulation, Columbia professor John Coffee, and has been incorporated into the major securities reform bill pending before the Banking Committee.
3) S. 437 would allow lawyers who advance litigation costs to clients unable to afford them to expense them on tax returns. This bill codifies an interpretation of the tax code (opposed by the IRS) reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court's decision was written by John Noonan, a conservative judge appointed by President Reagan.
In my work on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I support bills to correct legal imbalances caused by abusive executive policies and activist courts that legislate rather than interpret the law.
U.S. SEN. ARLEN SPECTER