Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Is Waxman abusing power to aid trial lawyers?

Not even Jack Abramoff could top this one - getting a senior congressman to abuse his committee chairmanship by holding hearings to benefit a trial lawyer.

But that's what a California trial lawyer apparently got Rep. Henry Waxman to do in his jihad against Blackwater USA.

Waxman is holding another show trial of Blackwater on October 2.

The sleazy-looking arrangement came to light earlier this year when Waxman (D-Calif.) held an "investigative" hearing on Blackwater, and called in witnesses who happened to be plaintiffs in a case against the company.

Waxman chairs the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, a post that grants him sweeping investigative powers.

The Overlawyered blog reported last February, "Nice tactic, if you can get away with it: after filing suit, get a House committee to conduct a hostile investigation of your opponent with your clients appearing as friendly witnesses. That's what appears to have happened in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's hearings last week on alleged shortcomings in the work of Iraq contractor Blackwater USA. The friendly witnesses in this case, called by committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), were family members of several Blackwater consultants killed in Iraq, who are suing the company for damages. According to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the hearing followed upon the sending of a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by Orange County, Calif., plaintiffs’ lawyer Daniel Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, who's representing the families. The letter urged a "fruitful and meaningful" investigation of "these extremely Republican companies, such as Blackwater, who have been uncooperative to date."

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