Among litigators, there is no presidential candidate who inspires the same level of hatred – and fear – as Perry, an avowed opponent of the plaintiffs’ bar who has presided over several rounds of tort reform as governor.
And if Perry ends up as the Republican nominee for president, deep-pocketed trial lawyers intend to play a central role in the campaign to defeat him.
That’s a potential financial boon to a president who has unsettled trial lawyers with his own rhetorical gestures in the direction of tort reform. A general election pitting Barack Obama against Perry could turn otherwise apathetic trial lawyers into a phalanx of pro-Obama bundlers and super PAC donors.
The governor has pushed through a string of tort reform laws, including a 2003 measure putting a monetary cap on non-economic damage awards. He passed another law in the most recent Texas legislative session, making it easier to dismiss some lawsuits and putting plaintiffs on the hook for legal costs in certain cases that are defeated or dismissed.
The campaign for tort reform in Texas began in the 1990s, well before Perry was governor, but the Republican can legitimately claim some credit for the results. It’s a story Perry proudly tells on the stump, casting himself as the man who mastered a legal system run amok and made Texas friendlier for business.