published Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Fred Thompson to lobby in Nashville for trial lawyers

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    ** FILE ** Then-Republican presidential hopeful, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson speaks to supporters in Seneca, S.C. in this Jan. 18, 2008 file photo. Thompson has quit the presidential race, according to a statement. (AP Photo/Patrick Collard, File)

NASHVILLE -- Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who unsuccessfully ran for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, has joined the Tennessee trial lawyers' lobbying team at the state Capitol, the Tennessee Association for Justice announced Tuesday.

In a news release, the group said the Republican Thompson, a one-time federal lobbyist and actor, will "assist TAJ in their efforts to ensure that Tennesseans maintain a full measure of justice in Tennessee courts."

Association for Justice spokeswoman Jill Hudson said Thompson "will be a paid, registered lobbyist working on civil justice issues."

"He is not available to do media interviews at this time," she said in an e-mail.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, business interests, doctors, nursing homes and hospitals as well as the Republican-dominated General Assembly are all looking to cap jury awards for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in lawsuits.

Hudson said tort reform is one of many issues that falls under civil justice.

Thompson worked in Washington as a lobbyist and as a Hollywood actor prior to his 1994 election to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. He left the Senate in 2002 and resumed his acting career until 2007, when he ran for president.

He later started his own talk radio program, the "Fred Thompson Radio Show," where he offered sometimes stinging conservative commentary. The last program aired Friday.

In the U.S. Senate, Thompson never supported efforts to curb lawsuit awards.

"We are sworn to protect the Constitution and ensure citizens' rights are protected from unreasonable government intrusion," said Tennessee Association for Justice President Phillip Miller. "Senator Thompson understands the importance of this issue and worked as an advocate throughout his career to protect civil justice."

In their news release, the trial lawyers didn't specifically mention tort reform but said Thompson, an attorney, "identifies with the citizens of this state and relates to their concerns and needs. He will play an integral part in guaranteeing that their rights are protected."

The group's former president, Randy Kinnard, said, "We put our trust in Tennesseans at the ballot box, and we should continue to trust them in the jury box. It is our hope Senator Thompson will help us convey this message so our citizens can continue to exercise their right to trial by jury."

Thompson's son, Tony Thompson, already lobbies on behalf of the Tennessee Association for Justice. A check of the state Ethics Commission website shows Fred Thompson has not yet registered. He has five days from the time he is hired to register.

The group already has six people registered to lobby.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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