Wilson Backs Three Ballot Measures to Curb Lawsuits


Calling California “the land of litigation,” Gov. Pete Wilson on Friday endorsed three initiatives on the March ballot aimed at restricting the right to sue.

Backers of the three measures said Wilson’s endorsement will help them raise the millions they need to wage their campaign against one of the most wealthy interests in the state--trial lawyers.

“These initiatives by themselves will not end lawsuit abuse, but they go a very long way,” Wilson said. “They frankly send a message that the public is tired of special interests being able to thwart their will, to cost them money and to cost them jobs.”


Wilson, a lawyer who has been a litigious governor, took several slaps at attorneys as he endorsed the measures, saying that if you get in an accident in Southern California, “you can expect a lawsuit to arrive faster than a tow truck.”

Wilson said he will continue to push the Legislature to overhaul the civil law system. But he noted that although his bills to limit the right to sue will probably clear the Republican-controlled Assembly, they will run into trouble in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

The three initiatives on the March 26 ballot seek to cap lawyers fees, create a no-fault auto insurance system, and restrict lawsuits by shareholders against publicly traded corporations.

All three measures are being pushed by Silicon Valley millionaire Tom Proulx and various other entrepreneurs and activists, both from the left and the right. One of the campaign strategists is Wilson’s former presidential campaign advisor, attorney Ken Khachigian.

The trial lawyers association is campaigning against the measures, and it is pushing two counter-initiatives for the November ballot to gut the March measures if they pass. Other opponents include consumer attorney Ralph Nader.

“These things are no reforms at all,” said Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), a lawyer. “They’re just efforts by super-rich guys, big corporations and their Republican friends to injure and rip off working people, without being held accountable.”