Mississippi Ranked Last For Court System - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi Ranked Last For Court System

There are several bills pending this year in the Mississippi legislature, many of them supported by the Chamber. The Chamber survey ranks Mississippi last in five categories...punitive damages, judges' impartiality, judge's competence, juries' predictability and juries' fairness.

The Mississippi Economic Council says the survey results are a wake up call, and that Mississippi could be scaring businesses away.

"There's no question that they (businesses) look at that," Mississippi Economic Council Board member Gene Warr said. "They really do. They can't take a chance."

But other people point to industries like the Wellman Plant in Hancock County and the Nissan Plant under construction near Jackson. These companies were not scared away by Mississippi's legal record.

Some Coast trial attorneys describe the Chamber of Commerce survey as bogus because the people questioned were all attorneys representing large corporations with annual profits of at least one million dollars.

"I am disappointed that they would lobby for companies that have billions of dollars in assets and criticize our judges and our juries in order to reduce the money they pay to legitimately injured people," said Alwyn Luckey, an Ocean Springs trial lawyer.

"It has as much credibility as a headline that says, 'Mississippians oppose capital punishment and then you find out who was surveyed and it's all convicted felons that are serving 20 year plus sentences,' " said Paul Minor, a Biloxi trial lawyer.

The Mississippi Economic Council says not all lawsuits are bad, but something needs to be done about the multi-million dollar awards being handed out.

"Our system is allowing companies from outside our state to come down here and have their trials because they have the potential of breaking the bank, so to speak," Warr said. "That's a poor image passing along to industry."

Moderates on the issue say what really needs to be done lies somewhere in between what the trial lawyers want and what the Chamber of Commerce wants.

"I think it's a long process," said Chevis Swetman, a past president of the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce. "I don't think you're going to see anything resolved this session of the legislature, but I think it's the beginning of a dialog that people need to start taking and understanding and working toward a resolution."

Other states included in the Chamber of Commerce list of the worst states for lawsuit abuse are West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

By Amanda Jones

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