The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform recently released the Harris Study, which ranked West Virginia’s court system as 50th in the nation. The study was designed to rank states in order of business climate conditions, but several legal advocacy groups feel that the study is simply an attempt by corporate lawyers to denigrate state legal systems for their own benefit.
Both The West Virginia Association for Justice and the Center for Justice and Democracy based in New York have released statements in opposition of this study, claiming that the facts in it are false and unfair. The Center for Justice and Democracy cites professor Theodore Eisenberg, Professor of Law and Statistical Sciences at Cornell University: “The Chamber’s willingness to vilify states and counties to promote both itself and legislation may be the product of the same mentality that has led to shocking business failures.” The Center also claims that the study used “deplorable methodology,” and quotes from Eisenberg’s findings:
“The Chamber’s survey violates the elementary principle that evaluation of legal system performance should be based on input from both sides to disputes,” noting the obvious: “asking only one side to a dispute about a system will yield biased results.”
Eisenberg goes on to note that study participants were not only informed of and influenced by the prior year’s results, but they were also paid for their contribution. He claims that this also leads to more biased results that only further invalidate the study.
In the end, the study has lasting impacts on the business and legal climate in West Virginia and other low-ranking states. However, there are many lawyers in West Virginia who will continue to fight for citizens in cases ranging from personal injury to criminal defense. It’s up to you to decide which lawyer takes your case seriously and treats you fairly, regardless of any study.