Sunday, June 15, 2008

Georgia's strong business climate attracts industry and fosters ingenuity

For Immediate Release
(404) 376-3495, Rebecca DeHart

Georgia's strong business climate attracts industry and fosters ingenuity
So why would our Chamber of Commerce tell us differently?

The State of Georgia has reason to celebrate. Last week Georgia was ranked 8th in the nation by financial network CNBC in its “America’s Top States for Business” report,1 and was named third best state in the nation for developing new biomass industry by Forbes Magazine.2

Governor Sonny Perdue issued a press release last Friday stating Georgia has a “strong,” “streamlined,” and “pro-active” business environment and reminded citizens that Georgia is already at the forefront of the nation exploring new avenues for alternative renewable energies.3 Such bioenergy-related business requires ingenuity, the backing of major Universities and other research based institutions and a business climate that fosters the development of new, groundbreaking products. Georgians should be proud of these nationally respected rankings. These accolades are important to remember as politically motivated groups attempt to tell the people of Georgia differently.

In sharp contrast to CNBC’s and Forbes’ independent reports, on April 22 of this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) released its 2008 report, in which it ranked Georgia’s legal system as 28th in the nation. 4 This report was given to every legislator in Georgia and received national attention. However, the following facts were not given to the Georgia legislature:
  • The ILR is a 30-person board composed of heads of drug, chemical, and insurance corporations with a combined 2007 revenue of $1.4 trillion dollars. 5
  • Only corporate defense lawyers from companies earning at least $100 million or more were surveyed. No local attorneys, judges or media were surveyed. 5
  • The US Chamber’s own pollster stated that there is no way to measure the fairness of a state’s legal system. 6
  • The same pollster confessed to the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia that only a fraction of the corporate lawyers surveyed knew anything about the state’s courts. Yet West Virginia was ranked 49th out of 50 states. 7

“It’s ludicrous. How could Forbes Magazine rank Georgia as 3rd in the nation for groundbreaking industry if what the Chamber says is true?” asked Fred Orr, President of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. “The ILR’s Report, and the other reports that are just like it, are nothing more than concocted statistics and imagined stories intended to scare the citizens and the legislatures in great states like Georgia.”

Several weeks prior to the Chamber’s report, the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) ranked Georgia 27th against the other 49 states using their Tort Liability Index.8 This index supposedly judges a state’s Civil Justice System and business climate. The lower a state’s ranking, the lower the status of its business community as shown in “higher prices, lower wages, decreased returns on investments in capital and land, restricted access to health care, and less innovation.”

Since then, the PRI has come under fire for conducting unethical and largely false research. An analysis by three leading academics, Tom Baker of University of Pennsylvania Law School, Herbert Kritzer of William Mitchell College of Law, and Neil Vidmar of Duke Law School, found that PRI’s claims are “without scientific merit and present a very misleading picture of the American tort system and its costs.” The professors took PRI to task on multiple accounts, calling their work “advocacy disguised as science,” “pure fiction,” “lack[ing] scientific merit,” and containing “highly dubious extrapolations.”9

Yet organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and others are still using this information in attempts to forward their extreme corporate agendas. In the June/July 2008 issue of Directorship Magazine, the American Justice Partnership (AJP) ranked Georgia 28th in the nation based on the two reports mentioned above “combined with the experience of the AJP.”10

In the report, Georgia has a big red circle next to its name which, according to AJP, indicates “the liability climate discourages growth and job creation.” The AJP study calls the Georgia Supreme Court on of the nation’s most ‘activist.’

“What we have here is a business front group putting forth two major lies. First, they say that business growth is limited in Georgia at the same time independent national research clearly shows the exact opposite,” said Andy Childers, an attorney in Atlanta. “Second, they say that our Supreme Court is an activist court and suggest that our Justices should be challenged in an election. Yet just this spring, an independent, non-lobbying, academic study was released ranking the Georgia Supreme Court as one of the five best courts in the nation.”

The University of Chicago Law School released a report in May of 2008 entitled, “Which States Have the Best (and Worst) High Courts?”11 The study was done in comparison to the Chamber’s Harris Survey.

The University study differs from the Chamber’s in methodology. While the Chamber surveyed only defense attorneys in $100 million firms, the University uses three measures rather than just one and does not survey lawyers.

“The differences between our approach and the earlier studies are driven partly by a different focus—the quality of the courts rather than (only) their influence—and partly by our different judgments about how to measure influence,” the report states. The University study indicates that not only their research, but that of other leading national and academic institutions, finds the Chamber’s research unreliable and inaccurate. “Our hope is that our study will shift the burden to the Chamber of Commerce to explain and justify their rankings more fully,” the study concludes.

“Basically the Chamber just keeps pouring money into in-house studies that are cooked so as to propel their own misguided legislative agendas forward—at the expense of small business owners and the citizens of Georgia.” said Childers. “As a small business owner I’m completely aware of Georgia’s business climate. It is good—just like the Governor said. With the real energy and economic problems we are facing you would think the Chamber would start focusing its attention on creating new industry, like developing alternative energy sources, rather than wasting its members’ time and money continuing to spew made-up propaganda.”


1. “America’s Top State’s for Business,”

2. “America’s Best Places for Alternative Energy,” Forbes Magazine, William Pentlend. 7/9/08

3. “Forbes ranks Georgia as third best state for alternative energy from biomass,” Press Release, Office of Governor Sonny Purdue, 7/11/08

4. “2008 US Chamber of Commerce State Liability Systems Ranking Study,”

5. “2006 U.S. Chamber of Commerce State Liability Systems Ranking Study,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 3/28/06,

6. “Survey says frivolous lawsuits hurt state's reputation,” Copley News Service, 3/8/04

7. “Corporate lawyers rank state's legal climate poor,” The Charleston Gazette, 3/9/05

8. “US Tort Liability Index 2008 Report”

9. “Jackpot Justice and the American Tort System; Thinking Beyond Junk Science,”

10. “Dire States,” June/July 2008 Issue,

11. “Which states have the best (and worst) high courts?” The Law School of the University of Chicago, May 2008,

Friday, June 13, 2008

GTLA President Fred Orr in the News

GTLA's President, Fred Orr, was featured in today's Atlanta Business Chronicle. The article, "Commitment to law lands Orr at head of GTLA," depicts his personal journey to practicing law.

Laying down roots inside Atlanta was a natural move for Orr, who not only attended undergraduate and graduate schools at Emory University, but grew up in the public school system of southwest Atlanta, attending then-Brown High School, where he made quite an impact as a student leader and athlete. Although setting up shop in Decatur was the natural choice, pursuing a law degree was not.

"I didn't know any lawyers, had never been in a law office, but I was always interested in politics and law," said Orr.

Orr had been offered scholarships to attend both Emory University and Georgia Tech after graduating from Brown High School. Though a fan of the Yellow Jackets then and today, Orr opted for Emory, where his older brother was already enrolled as a student (and could offer a free daily ride to school). At the suggestion of a fellow student, Orr pursued a law degree.
"I really fell in love with law in law school," said Orr.

Orr speaks of his commitment to GTLA and what it has meant for him to become president.

The recently installed 52nd president of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (GTLA) is humbled by his appointment.

"I never expected to be president [of the GTLA]," he said. But when the call came in 2006 telling him he'd been nominated to be fast-tracked into this leadership position, "I couldn't refuse," Orr said. "I was stunned, flattered and honored, and still a little shaken, that I am where I am. So many other people worked long and hard."

Orr built his reputation through hard work and fairness. As president of the GTLA, Orr will direct a 50-year-old membership organization of more than 2,000 Georgia attorneys, all dedicated to protecting the public and ensuring the public's right to the civil justice system.

Orr credits the GTLA for teaching him the skills that not only helped him define his views as a trial lawyer, but served as the foundation from which he built his career.

The article discusses some of Orr's more well-known cases and paints the accurate picture of a fair-minded leader in the legal community.

"I've been know to tilt some windmills," said Orr, who, at nearly 67 years old still plugs away at work seven days a week.

"I'm not sure that I've ever been satisfied with the status quo of anything. I hope to strive for the best at all times, particularly in my practice and my relationships."