President Bush has jumped in where Vice President Dan Quayle dared to tread by asserting that the civil justice system in America has "spun out of control." "The fear of outlandish litigation has begun to strangle the American dream," he declared recently, adding that reform is "absolutely essential to the country's well-being."
The president thus took up Mr. Quayle's theme that an explosion of law suits in this country is undercutting the U.S. competitive position. It will be interesting to see if law associations and citizens advocacy groups are quite so vociferous in their retorts now that the debate has been elevated to the Oval Office.
When the vice president made his provocative remarks in August at the annual convention of the American Bar Association, he was harshly criticized to his face by the then ABA president, John J. Curtin, Jr. But Mr. Quayle drew plaudits from U.S. industry groups that contend excessive litigation places them at a disadvantage in world markets, discourages the introduction of new products and drives up consumer prices.