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FITSNews Exclusive – Another Lawyer-Legislator Shakedown November 26, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
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lending lawsuit

S.C. LAWMAKERS SEEK BIG PAYDAY IN CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS

FITSNews – November 26, 2007 – It’s no secret that lawmakers in South Carolina aren’t above abusing their positions of power to generate a little extra income for themselves. In fact, we covered this trend extensively as it impacted this year’s workers’ compensation reform debate, in which a particularly immodest clique of personal injury lawyer-legislators (and their financial backers) fought tooth-and-nail to preserve a system that padded their pockets at the expense of legitimate South Carolina businesses.

Now, the same ambulance-chasing legislators who worked so hard to protect their personal financial interests during the workers’ comp debate have formed the nucleus of much bigger pay-to-play scam – only this time they’ve got an “easy target,” and a much more lucrative potential pay day.

Sources tell FITSNews that State Senators John Hawkins, Brad Hutto, Luke Rankin and Vincent Sheheen – all of whom were central figures in the attempted “personal injury lawyer shakedown” earlier this year – are currently spearheading a legal jihad against the state’s payday lending industry, one that could result in a potential $1 million windfall for each legislator involved.

Additionally, court documents show that nine other state lawmakers – Senator David Thomas and Representatives Creighton Coleman, Jim Harrison, Christopher Hart, Doug Jennings, Todd Rutherford, Fletcher Smith, Murrell Smith and David Weeks – have been retained as plaintiffs’ attorneys in one of six class action lawsuits filed against the payday lending industry dating from August to October of this year.

Documents also show that Senators Hawkins and Sheheen are listed as lead plaintiffs’ attorneys in each of the other five lawsuits, all of which target Advance America Cash Advance Centers of South Carolina, Inc., South Carolina’s largest payday lender.

All together, the six cookie-cutter cases represent what could be the most extensive legislative involvement in a class action lawsuit in state history, not to mention South Carolina’s biggest potential legislative payoff – which was duly noted when one of the lawmakers involved reportedly bragged to a colleague about “getting rich courtesy of the predatory lending industry.”

As much as we detest payday lenders, there’s something about this sort of organized governmental extortion that stinks even worse.

Sure, the people being targeted by this unprecedented government shakedown sit alongside tobacco barons and video poker operators as ripe for the proverbial picking, but that doesn’t mean a bunch of lawyer-legislators should be allowed to gang up on them (using laws they passed in front of judges they appointed, no less).

We’d also be curious to know whether or not the laws that regulate lending practices in South Carolina have been intentionally preserved in recent years to lay the groundwork for these legislatively-driven lawsuits, because frankly it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if ethically-challenged legislators like Hawkins, Hutto and Rankin, in particular, weren’t playing a little “wink and nod” behind the scenes on this controversial issue.

Most disturbing by far, though, is the dangerous precedent that could be set if thirteen lawmakers are allowed to reap ridiculously-large financial rewards because they pooled their collective influence to target an admittedly unsavory industry.

Simply put, who will they go after next?

Today’s assault may be focused on businesses we don’t like, but if they’re successful there, tomorrow it could very well be your business.

Do we really want to live in a state where entire industries run the risk of extinction just because the virtue of our legislative and judicial branches of government is on par with that of a Vegas stripper?

How does this type of governmental gang bang not end up creating a “chilling effect” on economic development in a state that’s already poor as dirt because these jokers are more concerned with thickening their own wallets than creating the conditions for sustained economic growth?

Look, if South Carolina politicians like John Hawkins, Brad Hutto, Luke Rankin and Vincent Sheheen were serious about helping poor people, they’d cut taxes and stop growing government twenty times faster than the taxpayers’ ability to pay for it, not orchestrate some feelgood crackdown designed to pad their personal bank accounts.

We’ve only just obtained this information, but count on FITSNews to keep you up to speed on the latest surrounding this developing story …

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Comments»

1. Randy - November 26, 2007

Give them hell Will!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Monday Morning Blues - November 26, 2007

South Carolina is starting to feel like a crappy production of All the Kings Men. While I commend FITSNews on its reporting, it also depresses me to learn about the corruption in our government and the fact that it is much bigger than I thought. We can at least hope that the good citizens who are represented by some of these windbags will wise up come election time.

Also, FITSNews, what is your take on the Bar Exam scandal? Is that story dead or what?

3. Bad times in SC - November 26, 2007

I hope the Bar Exam scandal is not a dead story. Keep it up Fits News! You were the ones who broke this story before any else and you have done a great job.

This state truly is in an awful mess. All the Kings Men, sadly does have a resemblance to the state or our once great state. There are more than one Huey Longs whom I will not name in our state at the moment.

This kind of stuff happened in Louisiana in the 30’s, and maybe Alabama in the 60’s, but in the year 2007?!?

SC – get a grip and get these people out of office!

4. Anon - November 26, 2007

“creating a “chilling effect” on economic development”

How does pay day lending contribute to economic development? All it does is suck the life out of the pooreest of the poor and line the pockets of scumbags. Good riddance. If this lawsuit stems the tide of other such ventures within our border, then I’m all for it.

5. question - November 26, 2007

Does anyone have a link to one of these suits?

6. Gillon - November 26, 2007

Your references to “All the King’s Men” (Wille Stark-Huey Long) rings false. Huey Long might have been a power-grabbing scoundrel and a demagogue, but he used that power to help the common people and to lessen the influence of the entrenched politicial/economic powers. He cared little about personal economic gain. With too many SC leaders, it’s about power , but mainly about enriching yourself and your friends at the government trough. We have the worst of both possible worlds. To tell you the truth. a man with the political skills and regard for the downtrodden that Long possessed might be a welcome change for this state.

7. Yikes! - November 26, 2007

Gillon = Joseph Stalin

8. solorunner - November 26, 2007

what is it with the legal profession that creates so many utter scumbags? I honestly think that the only way to really clean up government is to forbid lawyers from being in public office. They write the laws, they interpete the laws, they create ways to skirt and abuse the laws then they go before judges (former lawyers) and walk away. Foxes guarding the henhouses times 10.

9. Judge Roy Bean - November 26, 2007

I wonder if these predatory lending suits will be the first cases that Catherine Harrison and Judge Burch’s daughter will work on. This seems like the perfect type of case for an influence peddling state representative/trial lawyer to cut his daughters legal teeth on.

10. Bad times in SC - November 26, 2007

Saw this on a blog all the way up in NYC… I thought this writer’s comment was right on que. Just imagine the situation he/she describes… do you think that Justice Toll or Justice Pleicones would have been so forgiving of the described scrivener’s error? Sadly enough, I somehow doubt it. But then again, it is becoming more and more apparent by the day that attorneys in SC have to live by a higher and more strict standard of ethics than does the the high court in SC (yeah seems kind of reversed from what its supposed to be).

This is what the blog said:

WTE = WTF.

I mean, seriously – this explanation has all the credibility of “the dog peed on my homework.”

Imagine telling the South Carolina Supreme Court that because of a scrivener’s error, the due date of your client’s opening brief on appeal was written down as November 26 instead of November 6; as a result, since your brief was rejected as untimely filed, it would be more equitable to allow you and everyone else who ever turns in a brief late in the future to be allowed an extra 20 days from the date it’s due to actually file it.

Wow.

11. Logic vs. Life - November 26, 2007

#10

Do not attempt to apply logic to the Bar Scandal, it can cause physical injury. I thought about it for a while and then my nose started bleeding and I started having hallucinations. I think that Toal may have called upon the black arts to keep people quiet.

12. SC - November 27, 2007

What is our assurance that these errors will not happen again on future exams? What is our assurance that these errors did not occur on other essays taken on the July exam? The Supreme Court’s Rule 402 is absolutely NO assurance that these errors have not occurred elsewhere.


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