Funding third-party lawsuits as a tool of defensive elites

This thought-provoking Vox article suggests a disturbing trend:

Olson argues that if you went back a century or two and talked to British or American legal scholars, “they’d say of course these things would be used by the rich and powerful if you allowed them.” Under doctrines called champerty and maintenance, the law used to bar unrelated third parties from paying someone else to engage in litigation and financing a lawsuit in exchange for a share of the damages.

But states have loosened these laws over the past 50 years, in part because lawyers began to see easy access to the courts as being in the public interest. This was driven in part by the rise of public interest litigation — think, for example, of an environmental group finding a third-party plaintiff to sue a company to stop an environmentally sensitive development project.

“Awards are constantly being given to projects in which some wealthy person decides that someone needs to be sued, finds someone who has standing as a plaintiff, and generously funds their litigation,” Olson says.

http://www.vox.com/2016/5/26/11772856/peter-thiel-gawker-war

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