Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ju$tice for $ale in Alabama?

Interesting Article from the Anniston Star.

Corporate money and courts
By Robert Leslie PalmerSpecial to The Star

In electing the next Alabama Supreme Court justice, Alabamians should bear in mind the Dutch proverb that "promises make debt, and debt makes promises," for it is now virtually impossible to run for judicial office in this state without acquiring substantial political "debt."
Alabama ranks at the very top in the cost of judicial campaigns, which commonly exceed a million dollars. If we think that all of that money has no effect on the quality of justice, then we are only deluding ourselves.
But how did this come about? Last December, a Harper's Magazine article, "The Best Justice Money Can Buy," observed that it was Karl Rove who "put the Supreme Court elections in Alabama 'on the map' in national political terms." The article then detailed how in 1992, Rove masterminded a strategy by which the Republican party seized control of the Alabama Supreme Court.
That strategy involved substantial infusions of cash into judicial campaigns by corporate interests. According to the non-profit organization, Justice at Stake, Alabama Supreme Court candidates raised $54 million between 1993 and 2006, the highest total in the nation. As a result, 16 years later all but one of the nine Alabama Supreme Court justices is a Republican.
Despite the near complete domination of Alabama Supreme Court elections by corporate interests, the cash spigot is still running. More important, the flow of corporate money has had a demonstrable effect on the quality of justice. In the fall 2008 Alabama Association for Justice Journal, an article, "Is There Any Hope?", has removed the rhetoric from the struggle between corporate interests and trial lawyers by painstakingly detailing objective facts rather than subjective opinion.
For example, the article demonstrates that in the past five years, the court has either reversed or reversed in part nearly four times as many jury verdicts as it has affirmed, and that there is an astonishing correlation between the percentage of campaign contributions received from corporate interests and votes to reverse a jury verdict.
Thus, by methodically detailing fundraising and election results, individual justice's votes on plaintiffs' damage verdicts, and the degree to which campaign contributions correlate with judicial decision-making, the article demonstrates objectively and authoritatively that all that corporate money has "made it harder for civil plaintiffs in Alabama to get and keep jury verdicts" compensating them for their injuries. In short, the article lifts the Court's skirt to reveal the red boots of a brazen streetwalker.
A wise person once admonished us that the "accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference." If we remain indifferent to the wholesale purchase of our highest court by corporate interests, then we will all be accomplices to every unjust decision that the court renders.
It is in this context that we must consider the campaign contributions in this year's only Supreme Court race. To date, Greg Shaw has raised $591,269 from 188 contributors, for an average of $3,145 per contribution. In sharp contrast, Deborah Bell Paseur has raised $521,009 from 1,417 contributors, for an average of $367 per contribution. Thus, even though Paseur raised just 88 percent of the total contributions that Shaw raised, the number of her contributors outnumbers Shaw's 7.5 to 1.
Shaw was able to exceed Paseur's total campaign contributions only because his campaign contributions on average are nearly 9 times as large Paseur's. In short, Shaw has raised more cash from decidedly fewer sources.
More disturbing, however, is the degree to which Shaw's contributions come from political action committees. In contrast to Paseur's campaign contributions, less than 11 percent of which come from PACs, a whopping 95 percent of Shaw's campaign contributions come from PACs. And if that is not enough to make you ill, a full 62 percent of Shaw's contributions come from PACs run by one person, Thomas Dart, a lobbyist for the Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama. Every time you watch a commercial or read an ad for Shaw, remember that the pitch is being made by car dealers.
Unlike Shaw, Paseur has collected campaign contributions primarily from individuals rather than PACs, and half of her contributors are women. When couples are included, the number rises above 61 percent.
Alabama, you should vote for Shaw only if you truly believe that juries — composed of ordinary citizens like you — are wrong more than 80 percent of the time, and that the Alabama Supreme Court needs one more justice whose sympathies lie with corporations rather than people. You should vote for Shaw only if you are comfortable buying your next Supreme Court justice from a used car salesman.
But if instead you can see the plain facts before you, and if you are concerned that corporate money threatens the sanctity of our judicial system, then you should stand up for an independent judiciary and vote for Deborah Bell Paseur.

(See previous commentary on this subject from the Anniston Star.)

Legally Speaking

The latest edition of Legally Speaking is now available on-line. This quarter's edition includes bio information on Karlos Finley (M&W's newest attorney), traffic safety, a recent case history and events at the firm. Legally Speaking has been published every quarter for the last 10 years by M&W and is dedicated to promoting important information for consumers and injury victims. It also reports on important traffic safety news. To be added to the regular mailing list please contact Mark Wolfe at

Monday, September 22, 2008

Finley and Wolfe Attend ALA Banquet

On Sept 19 and 20th Karlos Finley and Mark Wolfe attended the Alabama Lawyer Association's (ALA) annual seminar and banquet. The ALA was established in 1971 to assist African-American attorneys in Alabama. This year's event celebrated 35 years of service. At the evening banquet ceremony, which was held at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf and Spa Resort in Hoover, Alabama, Karlos was installed as the Southeast Regional coordinator for ALA. Long time attorney and civil rights activist Demetrius Newton also received a life time achievement award and Judge John England was honored for his continuous legal and judicial service for Alabamians. M&W were proud to be sponsors for this year's event.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

From the Birmingham News; 9-18-08

The race for the Alabama Supreme Court has reached $1.1 million in contributions
Thursday, September 18, 2008
News staff writer

Political action committees have substantially underwritten Greg Shaw's campaign for Alabama Supreme Court, while hundreds of women contributed to Deborah Bell Paseur, campaign disclosure forms show.
The two candidates for an open seat on the state's highest court passed $1.1 million in combined fundraising since campaigning began. They have collectively spent $968,000.
Shaw, a Republican, reported raising nearly $468,000 in cash and other sources between June 7 and Sept. 4, according to his latest disclosure form, posted Wednesday. He also reported spending more than $440,000 in that period, 81 percent of which was for advertising.
Paseur, a Democrat, reported raising nearly $257,000 in cash and in-kind services between June 3 and Sept. 12, according to disclosure forms sent this week to the state Secretary of State's Office. She spent more than $282,000, 58 percent of which went for ads.
Both candidates filed ahead of Monday's deadline for reporting this summer's contributions and spending. It is the only Supreme Court race on the Nov. 4 ballot.
PACs gave $439,000 in cash and in-kind services during the current reporting period to Shaw, a judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. PACs provided 94 percent of his intake since June.
Nearly half of that PAC money came from the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, traditionally the largest contributor to Republican judicial candidates. It is run by Thomas Dart, a lobbyist for the Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama.
Three other PACs run by Dart - Lawsuit Reform, Pro Business and Automobile Dealers Association - contributed a total of $75,000 to Shaw. Dart's PACs provided 62 percent of Shaw's contributions this summer, disclosure forms show.
Shaw has collected nearly $600,000 in cash, in-kind and other sources since his campaign began, 95 percent from PACs. Total spending for his entire campaign is just above $519,000.
Half of the contributors to Paseur's campaign this summer were women, her disclosure forms show. When couples are included, the number is above 61 percent.
Individual contributors provided nearly $206,000 since June to the retired Lauderdale County District Court judge, almost 85 percent of her total money in that period.
Less than 15 percent of Paseur's contributions came from PACs. Of the $37,000 she received from political action committees, $25,000 came from the state Democratic Party Executive Committee.
Paseur has received nearly $538,000 in cash and in-kind contributions since her campaign began. Women dominate the overall contributor list. Less than 11 percent of her money has come from PACs.
Paseur's total spending since her campaign started is almost $449,000.
In Alabama, the most expensive state in the nation to run for Supreme Court, million-dollar judicial campaigns are routine. The $7.7 million race for chief justice in 2006 was the second-most expensive judicial campaign in U.S. history.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Judge Deborah Bell for Ala Supreme Court

No she doesn't have a Hollywood celebrity doing her voice overs in her comercials like her opponent, but she's a great person and a top notch Judge who will be a blessing to our State as a Justice on the Alabama Supreme Court. Please watch this clip.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

gREAT liNK abOUT In$urance Company Rule$

Sad, but true. Watch and laugh.....until you have a claim!


At the Firm


Wolfe Selected as Member of Academy of Trial Advocacy (ATA).
(The following is an excerpt from the ATA news release) Alabama Attorney Selected for Membership in Academy of Trial Advocacy. The Academy of Trial Advocacy (ATA) is pleased to announce that Gulf Coast attorney Mark Wolfe has become a member of the organization. The organization is limited to 1000 members and Wolfe is only the second lawyer in Alabama to qualify for membership. The ATA members are lawyers who represent consumer and injury victims. Not only are members required to have extensive litigation and trial experience, but they also must have had articles published in legal journals, taught continuing education courses for other lawyers in the area of trial advocacy, handled significant or important appellate issues, been involved in public education activities regarding the legal system and been active in charitable activities. John Leighton, a Miami attorney who is the chairman of ATA, said the organization wants lawyers who have demonstrated skill in the courtroom but also excelled in other areas such as public service, teaching, writing and advocating issues on behalf of consumers and injury victims. "Simply put, ATA looks for the best of the best. We want members who are deeply committed to protecting the rights of consumers and injury victims," said Leighton. Wolfe, who was nominated for membership by New Jersey attorney, Larry Simon and sponsored by fellow Alabama lawyer Greg Cusimano of Gadsden, said ATA membership appealed to him for several reasons. "The main thing I liked was the ATA has no membership fees or dues. Day in and day out we receive material from one group or another who want you to buy your way into a super name or title. This is not the case with the ATA," he said. "Also, when I looked at the criteria for membership I realized this organization was looking for people who not only have courtroom and trial experience but who are truly committed to helping the people who we represent. I am very proud to be a member of ATA and I look forward to continuing to help consumers and injury victims in our area," he said. Wolfe is a partner in the law firm of Moore & Wolfe located in Mobile, Alabama. The firm’s primary area of practice is auto-negligence and wrongful death claims and cases.

M&W Lawyers Participate in Medical Seminar. On August 8th, Steve, Mark and Knox participated in a national medical seminar for chiropractic physicians held in Orange Beach, AL. They were part of a panel discussion on medical records and documentation for auto-negligence claims. Wolfe also reviewed his recent paper on computer assisted claim evaluation programs. Those programs are being utilized by more and more liability insurance companies when evaluating auto-negligence claims.

Third Annual M&W Charity Wine Tasting is Sunday, October 26, 2008. The event will go from 2:00 to 5:00 and again be at the Bakery CafĂ© at 1104 Dauphin Street. This year’s beneficiary is the Mobile Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer Program (VLP). The program has been providing quality pro bono legal assistance to the low income citizens of Mobile County in civil matters for over 23 years. Over 50% of the Mobile Bar Association members volunteer their time to help with this important program. He program is recognized as the most effective pro bono program in the State and one of the best in the country.
In the past two years the M&W Charity Wine Tasting has raised almost $20,000 for area charity projects. In 2006, the proceeds went to help build a community playground at Central Presbyterian Church in midtown. In 2007, the proceeds went to the ClassAct Program at USA Children’s & Women’s Hospital. The program provides teachers and class rooms at the hospital so patients can stay current with school assignments and receive attendance credit. For more information or to download ticket order forms visit the News page of the M&W web site: or call 251 433-7766.