Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry, left, is joined on stage by his wife, Sharon LeBlanc Landry, as he speaks before qualifying to run for Governor, Wednesday, August 9, 2023, at the State Archives building in Baton Rouge, La.

Trial attorneys in Louisiana are not hidebound by political principle or party loyalty.

Just check their record in gubernatorial elections, and a fine independent spirit will shine through. They played a key role in getting John Bel Edwards elected to two terms as the Deep South's only Democratic governor, and now they are gung-ho for Jeff Landry, who seems determined that no other candidate will beat him to the conservative fringe of the GOP.

That makes a lot of sense. Ideological consistency is a virtue only if it helps to win elections, and it will be a shock if the two-term attorney general doesn't win this one.

While it is always possible that conscience drives the trial attorneys' political strategies, money is more likely to be the determining factor.

Trial attorneys have contributed $217,500 directly to Landry's gubernatorial campaign and organizations supporting it, but that tells only part of the story. The law limits such contributions to $5,000 a pop, while political action committees face no such constraints. In return, PACs and the politicians they promote are forbidden to confer, so that, in theory, the amount that can be spent to support specific candidates is tightly controlled.

The theory is a noble one but, since PACs and candidates will often be working to identical ends and breathing the same air, they sometimes make such similar pitches that they might as well be in cahoots. The result is the juggernaut that is the Landry campaign and its satellites, which have hauled in some $455,000 from trial attorneys, and a whole lot more from other sources, in the last couple of years.

All that money kicking around the governor's race is evidence that American society is excessively litigious and too easily rewards sue-happy opportunists, according to critics of the civil justice system. Those critics would include the business people who can count on being sued if their products or services provide any grounds for complaint.

It is always easy to find a plaintiff attorney to handle such a case.

If you want a list of suitable attorneys just check the books in the governor's race. You will see that, for all that he is almost certain to win, Landry is not the only candidate to be raking in the dough from trial attorneys, although he is Mr. Moneybags.

The odd man out among the candidates is Stephen Waguespack, a former president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. In that capacity, Waguespack lobbied for tort reform, as we call it around here. In this field, that makes him pretty much a pariah.

Now, Waguespack says, “A governor must always do right by the people. You can't save energy jobs or lower insurance costs for families if you sell out to the big trial lawyers, and it is clear the Landry campaign is doing just that.”

Stirring words, and true. They give an idealistic tinge to the case for reining in the courthouse activists who won't leave insurance and energy companies in peace. But let us give trial attorneys their due. There could be no justice system, no redress of legitimate grievance, and therefore no justice, without them.

Trial attorneys have long enjoyed the status of bogeymen in these parts, moneygrubbers with no motive nobler than grabbing 40% of any settlement. But if there is anything wrong with that, we might as well give up on the idea of America.

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