Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent the last year hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Big Pharma Misses Lincoln Chaffee

| Wed Sep. 12, 2007 3:37 PM EDT

Former Sen. Chaffee wasn't particularly activist on behalf of drug companies, but it was clear today on the Hill that some of those companies are extremely unhappy with his replacement, former Rhode Island attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse. To big companies and the tort-reform industrial complex, Whitehouse is evil incarnate. That's because, before coming to the Senate, he was the attorney general of Rhode Island, where he had the nerve to hire the big-shot plaintiff firm Motley Rice on a contingency basis to represent the state of Rhode Island in litigation against lead paint manufacturers. Motley Rice scored a major jury verdict for the state last year that potentially puts the paint companies on the hook for billions of dollars in paint clean-up costs.

In 2006, the companies campaigned aggressively against Whitehouse, who also earned the wrath of groups like the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), which has since been pushing legislation to ban states from contracting with plaintiff lawyers. But here he was today, presiding over a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the mind-numbing question of whether federal regulatory agencies have been improperly inserting "preemption" language into regulations that would ban lawsuits over dangerous products from coming into state courts—an issue near and dear to the drug companies' hearts.

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Americans Fight Terrorism From the Jury Box

| Mon Sep. 10, 2007 4:20 PM EDT

After September 11, many Americans were compelled to give blood, write checks to the Red Cross, or even to join the military as a way of serving the country. Apparently, though, an awful lot of us were also moved to show up for jury duty. This revelation comes courtesy of U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young, who recently addressed the Florida Bar Association on the death of the jury trial. Young noted that nationwide data (which he unfortunately didn't cite) show that Americans turned up for jury service in record numbers in the year after the towers fell.

Young is most famous recently for sentencing shoebomber Richard Reid by telling him "You're no big deal," but his speech (recently posted here) is an amazing--and rare--love song to the American jury that's worth a read. Along with some harsh words for Congress for suspending habeas corpus, there are some interesting observations about the state of the federal judiciary, including this one:

In 1988, the average time a federal judge spent actually sitting on the bench each year was 790 hours. In FY 2005, that number had fallen to 437, of which only 225 hours were spent overseeing trials. So what are the judges doing all day if not on the bench?

"Litigation management," said Young. "Hardly a shining vision, is it?"

(H/T Consumer Law and Policy Blog)

Homeland Security's Legal Loophole

| Tue Nov. 28, 2006 1:15 PM EST

Cross-posted from The Tortellini:

The Washington Post reported last week that the Department of Homeland Security has shown complete ineptness in contracting for a host of anti-terrorism services and devices. These include everything from airport screening machines to radiation detectors. The Post notes that DHS has wasted billions of dollars on security stuff, much of which doesn't work.

I find these stories especially disturbing because in creating the department, Congress allowed DHS to grant legal immunity to the manufacturers of anti-terrorism products. That means victims of a terrorist attack would not be able to sue a manufacturer if, say, its gas mask failed to filter out anthrax spores as promised.

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