With 56,000 members worldwide, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) is the world’s largest trial bar. Its mission is “to promote a fair and effective justice system — and to support the work of attorneys in their efforts to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct or negligence of others can obtain justice in America’s courtrooms, even when taking on the most powerful interests.”
Founded in 1946 by a group of nine attorneys involved in workers’ compensation litigation, AAJ was first known as the National Association of Claimants’ Compensation Attorneys (NACCA). In 1973 it was renamed the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA). But due to the increasingly negative connotation of the words “trial lawyers” in the public mind, the organization once again changed its name in 2006 to the American Association for Justice.
AAJ serves as a lobbying group for trial lawyers and provides them with “the information and professional assistance needed to serve clients successfully and protect the democratic values inherent in the civil justice system.” Issues of concern to AAJ include:
Civil Justice System: “When corporate CEOs abuse their power by denying access to quality health care, pollute our environment and endanger public health, or swindle employees out of their pensions to pad profits … the last resort for Americans to hold them accountable is in our courts.”
Drug Safety: AAJ has repeatedly accused the pharmaceutical industry of price gouging and of manufacturing drugs that are unsafe.
Insurance Reform: Opposed to placing caps on insurance claims, AAJ charges that insurance companies are guilty of price gouging against doctors and patients alike.
Medical Malpractice: “Lawsuits lead to safer drugs and a health care system that’s accountable to the people.”
Product Safety: “We oppose efforts that would limit consumers’ access to court to confront wrongdoers, as well as efforts to restrict remedies for consumers who bring legitimate products liability claims against manufacturers.”
American businesses, manufacturers, and insurance companies regularly face frivolous lawsuits and liability claims filed by trial lawyers. According to Forbes magazine, the current civil justice system costs the U.S. economy $200 billion per year due to flaws in the tort system. Current tort reform measures have been proposed by members of Congress in an effort to limit tort litigation and damages, but AAJ has been a chief opponent of such reform.
The current President of AAJ is Lewis “Mike” Eidson, who accuses U.S. businesses of seeking to profit from tort reform: “There is no such thing as tort reform. Reform automatically is a word used, if you’re framing this debate, [to imply] that it’s broken and needs something done to it. So you go out and make up laws to take people’s rights away so they can’t get justice in the courts. You change the procedural rules. You change the substantive rules. You change joint and several liability … so you can make more money and you’re not held accountable for what you do. This is an attempt to destroy the system, to avoid accountability, to avoid responsibility for wrongdoing.”
Eidson has served on AAJ’s Board of Governors for more than 15 years and is currently Chairman of AAJ’s Leader’s Forum. He is also a Board member of Public Justice.
AAJ is a member organization of Working For Us (WFU), a political action committee formed in 2007 that is committed to holding “Democrats electorally accountable on economic and community security issues and to elect lawmakers who support a progressive political agenda.” WFU is the brainchild of Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern, who, in his desire to keep the Democratic Party moving ever further to the political Left, saw a need for a group that could help prevent conservative and moderate Democrats from gaining too much influence. The Executive Director of WFU is Steve Rosenthal, co-founder of America Coming Together, the George Soros-affiliated Shadow Party’s labor wing and get-out-the-vote machine.
In 1986 AAJ established the Civil Justice Foundation (CJF), which awards grants to grassroots consumer advocacy groups. CJF has given over $1 million to more than 100 organizations, including the Aviation Consumer Action Project founded by Ralph Nader to sue the airline industry for stricter regulation.
AAJ also oversees a political action committee (AAJ-PAC) that funds political candidates from both parties, though the vast majority of its contributions go to Democrats; many of these Democrat beneficiaries are members of the radical Progressive Caucus. In 2002, AAJ-PAC contributed $2,235,753 to congressional candidates; 87 percent of that money went to Democrats. Recent recipients of AAJ-PAC campaign contributions include: Neil Abercrombie; Tammy Baldwin; Corrine Brown; Sherrod Brown; Robert Byrd; Michael Capuano; William Lacy Clay; Hillary Rodham Clinton; John Conyers, Jr.; Peter DeFazio; Rosa DeLauro; Sam Farr; Chaka Fattah; Bob Filner; Raul Grijalva; Maurice Hinchey; Jesse Jackson, Jr.; Marcy Kaptur; Ted Kennedy; Dennis Kucinich; Tom Lantos; Patrick Leahy; Barbara Lee; Sheila Jackson Lee; John Lewis; Jim McDermott; Jim McGovern; Jerrold Nadler; Eleanor Holmes Norton; Ed Pastor; Nancy Pelosi; Charles Rangel; Bobby Rush; Jan Bernie Sanders; Jan Schakowsky; Jose Serrano; Hilda Solis; Tom Udall; Nydia Velazquez; Maxine Waters; Diane Watson; Melvin Watt; and Lynn Woolsey.
According to a July 8, 2004 report in National Review, “The litigation industry has led all others in political contributions for over a decade, and the American Trial Lawyers Association [now called AAJ] was the largest PAC contributor to the Democratic [P]arty in the last full political cycle. Over that same span, every law firm contributing over $1 million was a plaintiffs’ firm, and each gave 99 to 100 percent of its contributions to Democrats.”
In 2010, AAJ’s political action committee made $2.7 million in campaign contributions, of which 97 percent went to the Democratic Party and its candidates.
AAJ is a member group of America Votes, a national coalition of 33 grassroots, get-out-the-vote organizations.