The president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, Ed Murnane, as the new chairman of the American Tort Reform Association is vowing to help state organizations better fight their battles against lawsuit abuse.
Murnane, who has largely coordinated state efforts to level the legal landscape in the Land of Lincoln, has long served on ATRA's board of directors. He said as the organization's new chairman, he hopes to energize the national organization's mission to help local tort reform efforts.
"The tort reform battles are really being fought in the states," Murnane said. "The experience that I have had in Illinois, which has been one of the real battleground states, is something that I can share. I have learned a lot here, and I have experienced a lot."
Murnane is a resident of Arlington Heights, in Cook County, which is considered by ATRA to be a perennial "judicial hellhole" for allowing frivolous lawsuits to flourish and awarding plaintiffs what the group calls exorbitant damage awards.
One of the nation's leading corporate defense attorneys, Mark Behrens, said Murnane will surely be "another outstanding chairman" for ATRA.
He replaces Thomas Considine, vice president of government and industry relations at Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., based in New York.
"Ed has substantial experience, sound judgment, and a good temperament," said Behrens, a partner at the Washington law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP.
Mark Denzler, vice president of government affairs at the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, praised Murnane's efforts to help enact legal reforms in the state.
"Ed Murnane has done an excellent job at raising the issue of tort reform and keeping its importance highlighted among the General Assembly and the business community," Denzler said.
Murnane has served on ATRA's board of directors since 1997. He served in the presidential administrations of Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He served for three years as the U.S. Small Business Administration's regional administrator for the Midwest.
"Ed's experience as a leader in Illinois is invaluable" and "no one's better suited than Ed to advise and guide ATRA's defensive efforts," the Washington-based organization's president, Sherman "Tiger" Joyce, said in a statement.
"With the current political climate favoring the influential litigation industry as much as it does in Congress, ATRA is focusing considerable energy on state legislatures where we're working to defend against a new wave of 'trial lawyer earmarks' and 'tort deform' bills designed to expand liability and increase the number of lawsuits."
Murnane said he will continue in his current -- and long-time role -- as president of the Illinois Civil Justice League during his two-year term as ATRA chairman.
"My primary obligation and responsibility is in Illinois," Murnane said. "To the extent that I can use that to help ATRA I will, and to the extent that I can use my involvement to help what we are doing in Illinois I will do that too."