PCCJR Update: February 11, 2019

 

Johnny Doc and Justice Doc ** Medical Malpractice Debate Heats Up

 Johnny Doc and Justice Doc

Last week the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania indicted labor leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, the long-time boss of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Philadelphia. The indictmentalleges embezzlement, theft, wire fraud and other charges. Investigators said that Dougherty, used the union coffers as a“slush fund for thieves and fraudsters.”

Within a couple days of the labor leader’s indictment, news sources across the state were reporting that Johnny Doc’s brother, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty received “money and other perks allegedly from the union that his brother John Dougherty controls and is now under scrutiny.” According to reports from WITF News:

“The indictment claims John Dougherty, known as “Johnny Doc,” offered a membership to the Sporting Club at the Bellevue in Philadelphia to Family Member No. 4, saying, “I got a different world than most people ever exist in. I am able to take care of a lot of people all the time.”

More significantly, the indictment says, a contractor performed work on the family member’s Philadelphia home in 2011 and charged it to the union, resulting in one of the many theft counts in the indictment.”

Justice Dougherty denies any wrong doing and no charges have been filed against him.

Duquesne University Law School Professor Bruce Ledewitz urged Supreme Court justices to ban gifts to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

“This story illustrates a fundamental fact that I thought was clear in 2015, when every single candidate running for Supreme Court in Pennsylvania said that the court would outlaw gifts to justices,” said Ledewitz, who has focused much of his scholarship on Pennsylvania constitutional law. “He should not be accepting gifts. We pay these people very well. Justices should not be getting gifts.” (as reported in ALM Media February 8, 2019

Justice Kevin Dougherty was elected to the Supreme Court in 2015 on a campaign largely financed by labor and trial lawyers. His brother’s political action committee, Local Union #98 I.B.E.W. Committee on Public Education, contributed $700,000 directly to his campaign along with hundreds of thousands of “In-Kind” contributions for such items as merchandise, professional services, printing, and office rent. The Philadelphia trial lawyer’s PAC, “Committee for a Better Tomorrow,” contributed $850,000 to Kevin Dougherty’s 2015 race. Even the pharmacists at the Pond Lehocky workers’ compensation law firm threw in a cool $28,800 through Fairness PA (the PAC that gave Governor Wolf over $1 million in 2017 and worked hard against the prescription drug formulary bill, SB 936 from the previous session). The Pond Lehocky firm itself made an in kind contribution of $5,000 to the Justice’s campaign.

Even before the revelations of last week, it was hard to see how the situation could get much worse for civil litigation defendants with this Supreme Court. Placed on the Judicial Hellholes watch list for 2018-19, the PA Supreme Court has steadily rolled back precedent in favor of judicial activism and the expansion of liability and damages. The most recent example being the case of Gallagher v. Geico Indemnity Company in which Justice Dougherty sided with the majority holding that a household exclusion in a policy issued by Geico violated the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law because it acted as a “de facto waiver” of stacked coverage. The ruling in Gallagher v. Geico reversed a Superior Court decision, which had relied on two prior Supreme Court decisions.

Now the court has seemingly set its sights on reversing a sixteen year old venue rule that has kept medical malpractice cases out of high verdict court systems such as Philadelphia. See the next article.

Medical Malpractice Venue Change Debate Heats Up As February 22 Comment Deadline Approached

Here is a re-cap of recent efforts by the PCCJR and its partners to defeat the proposed change to the venue rules for medical malpractice.

  • PCCJR Executive Director Curt Schroder appeared on WGAL’s Newsmakers along with PA Medical Society President, Dr. Danae Powers, to discuss the harmful impact of the venue proposal.
  • Last week, PCCJR Executive Director Curt Schroder spoke at a news conference with the PA Orthopaedic Society on the issue.
  • On February 5, the state Senate adopted resolution SR 20, proposed by Judiciary Chair  Lisa Baker (R-20th)directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to analyze the impact of the proposed change to the venue rule and report its findings by January 1, 2020. The resolution also calls on the Supreme Court to take no action on the proposal until the report is issued. SR 20 was supported by the PCCJR. You can read her full remarks here.
  • Health care providers, malpractice insurers and the PCCJRfilled the steps of the Capitol’s Main Rotunda at a news conference on January 31, along with Republican House leaders in opposition to the measure. Earlier that day, key stakeholders, including PCCJR, shared and demonstrated their concerns with the proposed venue-shopping rule before the House Republican Policy Committee. Lawmakers are warning that if the committee repeals the rule, the legislature will respond forcefully. At the news conference, Majority Leader Mike Turzai said, “Please know that with this type of step, it is an invitation to a constitutional fight between the powers.” (KWY Radio)
  • This week the House Republican Policy Committee will hold a public hearing on the venue proposal on February 12 at Luke’s University Hospital at 1:00 pm.

The comment deadline is fast approaching. If you have not yet sent you comment opposing the venue rule change, PCCJR has made it easy for you to do so. Just click here and take a moment to register your opposition!

 

 

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