Update: See Blawgletter’s Face of Red.
The WSJ Law Blog reports this afternoon a $280 million verdict in a securities class action against the Apollo Group, which owns the near-ubiquitous University of Phoenix. The plaintiffs charged Apollo with suppressing a Department of Education report that criticized Phoenix’s, er, aggressive student-recruiting techniques, which involve paying recruiters for each student who enrolled.
The centimillion dollar verdict didn’t rouse Blawgletter’s curiosity enough to post about it. But then we read the comments to the Law Blog post. And they included one sufficiently hateful that it deserves a look. It says:
The time [two days] the jury took to find in favor of the plaintiff illustrates why we need to abolish the jury system. The jury essentially decided to give away millions of the defendant’s dollars discussed the matter for a mere two days. The jury in this case is obviously ignorant about the drag on our economy by these kinds of suits, and obviously not instructed that a finding for the plaintiff would serve only to damage the economy. They need to be told that or they are no better than a barrel of monkeys. This is a perfect example of a jury being too stupid to do the right thing. Exhibit one in our effort to abolish jury trials.
Blawgletter hardly knows where to begin. Two days of deliberations don’t sound to us like the jurors suffered from stupidity or even that they rushed to judgment. The time suggests instead that the evidence left them with little that the defendants did, apurpose, defraud investors.
Second, the jury didn’t decide to "give away" money. It concluded that Apollo cheated investors and therefore should compensate them for their real losses.
Third, securities fraud lawsuits aim not only to right the wrongs to individual securities purchasers but also to enhance the honesty of markets and deter future wrongdoing. Increasing trust doesn’t "damage the economy." Betraying it does.
Finally, we suspect that, if Tort Reform should find himself the victim of a false or unjust charge, he will thank his lucky stars that he has the constitutional right to have a jury of peers decide his fate. Or will he stick to his principles and put his freedom and fortune in the hands of a single government employee?
Tort Reform’s vitriol is a refreshing — and possibly satirical — change from cleverer efforts to reduce the right to jury trial from an essential democratic freedom to a dead letter. You won’t catch the likes of the American Tort Reform Association or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce admitting, as Tort Reform does, that they want to "abolish jury trials." And yet one gets the strong impression that really they do.
Thank you, Tort Reform, for fessing up.