AM report: Tort reform; who's a law officer | Arkansas Blog

AM report: Tort reform; who's a law officer

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Morning notes from all over:

* TORT REFORM: I've told you the business lobby has been striving mightily to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to strip the Arkansas Supreme Court of rule-making power in damage lawsuits and otherwise cripple the ability to sue corporations that injure people. Trial lawyers have fought back with an amendment of their own — sponsored by several Republicans, if that should tell you something — that gives back a number of court wins for plantiffs' lawyers, but otherwise preserves an entry to the court for damaged people.

I now have word that a compromise may be close between the warring parties. But, said one close to it, "it's not put to bed yet." But things are happening. A joint state agencies committee on amendments this afternoon might provide more clarity.

* WHO'S A LAW OFFICER?: You may recall that when Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's political future got clobbered by news of an extramarital affair, an ancillary issue was a complaint from the family of a man shot to death last year at his mistress' house by her brother (McDaniel wasn't around). No charges have been filed. Self-defense has been argued. When this came up, and the family complained that it hadn't got help from McDaniel's office in trying to rev up the investigation, he responded (accurately) that he was not an enforcer of the state's criminal laws, not a law enforcement officer at all. He represents the state in criminal appeals, but that's about all.

A smart alec notes that the "no law officer defense" hasn't applied in the past week, when McDaniel has suddenly gotten revved up on the environment and, properly, gone after Exxon Mobil for covering up important facts about the oil spill disaster at Mayflower. In one interview, he reportedly referred to himself as the state's chief law enforcement officer. Really? Well, he does have some power to go after Internet perverts, an activity in which he takes great pleasure in proclaiming his office has made arrests. Law enforcement? Depends on which laws, I guess.

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