Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards responds to a question on Louisiana’s $50,000 jury trial threshold posed by Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns on October 31, 2015.
Soon after Sound Off Louisiana was founded (after a ton of persuasion by the late C. B. Forgotston for founder Robert Burns to do so), and back when almost nobody had a clue who we were, we produced a feature on October 31, 2015 which focused on the drastic differences regarding Louisiana’s $50,000 civil jury trial threshold between the two runoff candidates for Governor, then-State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) and then-U. S. Sen. David Vitter (R-Metairie).
As we mentioned in the feature, we had to make use of technology to highlight those differences because then-candidate Edwards adamantly refused to attend a business-sponsored candidate forum at which he knew the question would be posed. As a result, Burns merely asked Edwards (and the other candidates) the same question at a subsequent Baton Rouge Press Club (BRPC) meeting.
We’re about to provide a six-minute highlight of the video we aired back then because we think Edwards’ response to the question on that $50,000 jury trial threshold provides key insight into his true feelings and just how much of a battle State Sen. Kirk Talbot and State Rep. Raymond Garofalo face as they present stringent tort reform measures in the upcoming 2020 Louisiana Legislative Session:
Candidates Edwards and Vitter spar (though on separate occasions) about the topic of Louisiana’s $50,000 civil jury trial threshold and its significant adverse economic impacts (according to Vitter) or total lack thereof (according to Edwards).
In analyzing the preceding video, we’d like to make several points. First, then-Sen. Vitter ran a campaign based upon a fundamental belief that Louisiana should facilitate each of its citizens having a fundamental right (presently afforded citizens of 36 other states) to insist upon a civil jury trial decided by his or her peers irrespective of the dollar amount involved.
Accordingly, Burns asked Edwards if he too thought Louisiana citizens should have that same right as citizens in 36 other states.
In Edwards’ response, which begins at the 3:34 mark of the video, he first expresses appreciation for the question. Trust us, he was not the least bit appreciative, but he’s also very good at deploying platitudes in just such situations.
Next, Edwards, either genuinely or being sly, expressed an apparent misunderstanding of the question in saying, “I don’t believe there’s a constitutional right to a trial by jury,” to which Burns replied, “I’m asking if you THINK citizens should have that right.”
Once Edwards was perfectly clear on the question, we believe he provided a totally honest and truthful one-word answer: “No.”
At the 3:46 mark of the video, Edwards states his resolute belief that the present $50,000 jury trial threshold is, “fair, reasonable, and strikes at the right balance.”
He then went on to state his belief that Louisiana certainly wouldn’t want “$8,000 finder benders” being decided by jury. Those words (assuming Edwards isn’t willing to back off of them) would indicate Edwards certainly doesn’t plan to sign any legislative initiative which contains a jury trial threshold anywhere near as low as $8,000!
To counter Edwards’ arguments (beyond the video of Vitter doing so very, very effectively above), we want to draw focus on just how a FAR, FAR less than “$8,000 fender bender” resulted in a $48,500 award.
To do so, we merely encourage everyone to see all of that material (complete with photo and documentation links) which is available at the link for that October 31, 2015 feature. That material even includes a letter from State Farm Insurance stating its decision to settle the case is based at least in part by the judge who drew the case (19th JDC Judge Janice Clark).
The results of the 2019 Legislative races contained one crystal-clear message, and that is that the public, and the small business community and their families in particular, are fed up with the same system that Gov. Edwards describes as, “fair, reasonable, and strikes at the right balance.”
If Republican legislators fail to pass meaningful tort reform with teeth that dramatically transforms Louisiana’s present business-hostile environment, we fully expect those Republicans opposing such an initiative to experience an end to their political careers with that one vote. If they do pass meaningful tort reform and Gov. Edwards vetoes it, then we likewise believe those Republicans failing to support a veto-override on the measure can also kiss their political futures goodbye!
It should be a REALLY, REALLY interesting upcoming 2020 Louisiana Legislative Session, and we at Sound Off Louisiana can’t wait for it to kick off!
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