BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW) Executive Director Melissa Landry recently criticized gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards for “aggressively” opposing legal reform.
Landry made her opinion known in a scathing article posted on The Hayride, a website that historically has published stories that portray Edwards’ challenger, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), in a positive light. Edwards’ campaign alleges that Vitter self-funds the blog.
Landry criticized Edwards for fighting against “every lawsuit fairness” bill during his time in the Louisiana Legislature, blasting him for putting “lawyers and legal profits” ahead of the people of Louisiana, and implying that campaign financing may be behind Edwards’ opposition to civil litigation reform.
Landry maintains that Edwards has a “special interest” in promoting legislation tied to plaintiffs' lawyers – he is a trial lawyer “by trade,” and his top campaign donors are plaintiffs’ lawyers and unions.
Edwards' campaign, however, said the candidate has never sought to promote any sort of special interest.
“Ninety-five percent of our contributions in the primary came from inside the state of Louisiana,” a campaign spokesperson told the Louisiana Record. “John Bel Edwards has run a campaign that appeals across party lines, irrespective of geography, income and race. Since then, the endorsement of Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Jay Darenne, and the financial support of Republicans and Democrats alike serves to discredit any claims that Rep. Edwards serves any sort of ‘special’ interests.”
Landry, however, said that Edwards’ support is limited – legal reform and business associations, such as LLAW and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, have openly criticized his candidacy.
“They know that he will seek legislation to increase lawsuits and legal fees if he is a lawyer,” Landry told the Louisiana Record. “I would not give him the keys to the governor’s mansion.”
Landry praised Vitter for his support of tort reform, although LLAW does not make endorsements officially.
“U.S. Sen. David Vitter has been a longtime supporter and proponent of lawsuit reform in Louisiana, and has been a massive and outspoken critic of these massive legal fees going to lawyers,” Landry said. “The voters have a very clear choice between these candidates. John Bel Edwards has consistently put lawyers and legal fees ahead of jobs and small businesses who provide them, and David Vitter has a very clear and consistent record in supporting reforms to improve our state’s legal climate."
The runoff election between Vitter and Edwards, which the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics recently declared a “toss-up,” will be held on Nov. 24.