UPDATE: House Committee Endorses Asbestos Bankruptcy ‘Transparency’ Proposal

By a 19-9 vote along party lines Thursday (May 14), the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has decided to send an asbestos bankruptcy transparency proposal to the full House. The legislation, called “FACT,” for Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency, would require court-approved bankruptcy trust funds to disclose name, claim and payout information of people seeking payouts from the funds.
Dozens of the trust funds have been created to address liability of bankrupt firms facing asbestos exposure liability. Republicans argue that transparency is needed to prevent “double dipping” from people who get paid by both trusts and civil lawsuits; Democrats counter that trusts are a different system and defendants could get the payout information via pre-lawsuit discovery efforts. Both sides claim to have interests of veterans at heart.
Watch the sometimes testy debate at the House website archives (note it might take some time to convert the webcast to archive): http://judiciary.house.gov/index.cfm/videos

Even China Looks For Civil Court Reform?

For those wondering about transparency in American courts and the demise of our “rule of law” culture, given the rationing of justice in civil courts, there’s a great report in Foreign Policy magazine about China. It seems reform is afoot, and Fordham University Professor Carl Minzner notes that the Chinese “… have made judicial transparency a priority, with some provincial court authorities striving to make all of their verdicts available online. Central authorities have partially revived concepts of judicial professionalism that had gone into eclipse during the later years of Hu Jintao’s administration. One example is the attempt to separate out legal disputes and court cases from the poorly-defined petitioning channels many citizens use in practice to resolve their disputes.”
He also adds that “… authorities are experimenting with insulating judges from interference by local officials. Pilot reforms in six provinces remove control over the funding and appointment of local judges from the hands of county authorities, vesting it instead with provincial courts. This does not mean a repudiation of any core policies. Far from it. Beijing’s commitment to maintaining social stability above all else remains unchanged. But central authorities appear to be gambling that recentralizing control over the court system will help curb social dissatisfaction by combating incestuous relationships between local judges and government officials that are the source of many citizen grievances.”
Compare and contrast here: What Does China Mean By ‘Rule of Law’?