Archive for Thursday, November 24, 2005

Study: Appeals judges lean pro-business

Kansas court’s rulings generally support companies

November 24, 2005


The second-highest court in Kansas leans toward preserving a pro-business climate in the state, according to a new study commissioned for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the Kansas Court of Appeals tend to favor rulings that generally protect business interests, according to the study conducted by the Judicial Evaluation Institute, which is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Washington, D.C.-based institute reviewed cases involving employment, insurance, medical malpractice, product liability, workers' compensation and other liability lawsuits. Decisions by six of the court's 12 judges were analyzed to see which of the judges tended to favor business interests, and how often.

The study found that all six of the judges in the study tended to be "civil liability restrainers," meaning their philosophies and values sided with business interests more often than not, said Jim Gregory, a spokesman for the Kansas chamber. Such restraint means the court tends to foster a stable legal climate with regard to business issues.

That's important, he said, because expansion of civil liabilities tends to create uncertainty in the law, which can discourage business expansion and hamper job creation.

"Basically, the Judicial Evaluation Institute findings revealed that the higher court leans toward a more positive business climate," Gregory said. "That's generally good for business."

The survey's results haven't exactly turned heads at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

Heather Ackerly, director of business retention and attraction programs for the Lawrence chamber, meets throughout the year with dozens of business leaders and representatives that are considering moving into town.

"I've not experienced a company specifically mentioning the judicial environment as it pertains to the business-friendly environment. I've never been presented with those questions or concerns," said Ackerly, who reports hearing more about "day-to-day" concerns involving work force availability, potential sites for expansion and what buildings might be open for occupancy. "I've never had a question about the judicial system and how it pertains to the business community in Lawrence."

Only six appeals judges were included in the study, the institute said, because the other six were appointed too recently to have handled enough cases under review.

Each judge in the study was rated based on his or her record in cases where "reasonable people could disagree," Gregory said. Judges were scored on a percentage basis, from zero to 100, with 100 being the highest, pro-business score.

The findings:

¢ Gary Rulon, appointed from Emporia in 1988 and the court's chief judge since 2001, 92 percent.

¢ Jerry Elliott, appointed from Wichita in 1987, 76 percent.

¢ Henry Green Jr., appointed from Leavenworth in 1993, 71 percent.

¢ Christel Marquardt, appointed from Topeka in 1995, 64 percent.

¢ Joseph Pierron Jr., a Lawrence resident and appeals member since 1990, 59 percent.

¢ Lee Johnson, appointed from Caldwell in 2001, 52 percent.

The Kansas chamber requested the study earlier this year as a way to "look at the way individual judges' decisions are trending," Gregory said.

"These judges, they make their decisions based on their own judicial philosophies and values," Gregory said. "This lets businesspeople know how those are trending. In a couple years, we'll do it again."

The chamber also intends to have the institute study the business-related rulings of the Kansas Supreme Court. The study would have been conducted this year, Gregory said, but too many justices are too new to have a long enough record.

The institute conducted the survey free of charge for the Kansas chamber, which has 10,000 employer members.

The institute previously has conducted similar studies in 17 states, including Colorado, Illinois and Texas.


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