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Story Archives: Room for improvement
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|Room for improvement|
The recent reforms in ethics standards and business taxation pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal have gone a long way in changing the national perception of Louisiana's business climate.
But a reminder of the long road ahead came last week, when a national business survey ranked Louisiana's legal climate as the second-worst in the nation, only above West Virginia's.
The annual survey, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, asked corporate lawyers to grade states in 12 categories, including tort and contract litigation, punitive damages, treatment of class action suits and judges' impartiality and competence.
Louisiana ranked in the bottom three in each of the 12 categories, including last in judges' competence, treatment of scientific and technical evidence, discovery and timeliness of summary judgments and dismissals!
These are worrisome results.
The survey does not measure objective data, only how large businesses perceive the courts of each state. And as a trial lawyers' group pointed out, the survey is the view of large corporations who dislike injury lawsuits.
But when those companies rank Louisiana 49th, they are indicating that our legal climate is out of kilter with the rest of the nation. We should care about that perception, because how businesses see our state helps determine whether they set up shop here or elsewhere. In other words, the court system's bad image can cost us jobs.
There are factors affecting how Louisiana's courts are perceived that could be changed.
For example, Louisiana is among the states that still allow compensation for "loss of enjoyment of life" in addition to pain and suffering. Other states have barred loss of enjoyment as a separate item, and the Legislature should consider pending bills to do the same.
This does not mean Louisiana's courts should cater to every request from businesses, which are one of multiple conflicting interests that use the judicial system. Just as companies deserve courts that treat them fairly, plaintiffs also warrant fair treatment and a judicial system that recognizes their legitimate claims.
The national standing of our legal system improved somewhat with tort reforms implemented during former Gov. Mike Foster's tenure. Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent success in tightening state government's ethical standards and in speeding up the phase out of some business taxes have greatly helped.
But the chamber's survey demonstrates that Louisiana still has work to do to change its image -- and that should be a catalyst to push for further reforms.
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