America’s Trial Lawyers to Insurance Journal: Drop Dead

The American Association of Trial Lawyers held its annual convention in Boston early this month. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was among the speakers. The following is an exchange of emails between ATLA’s media relations chief and Insurance Journal’s Andrew G. Simpson, Jr. following ATLA’s rejection of Simpson’s request to cover the convention for Insurance Journal.

I fear we must stick with our credentialling decision. Yours is a publication with a point of view which clearly serves an audience in opposition to free and open access to the courts and the independent authority of citizen juries and whose interests are too frequently the polar opposite of people injured through no fault of their own, whom our members represent. I am sure you understand. Carlton Carl, VP of Media Relations, ATLA

No, I don’t understand. I’m curious how you came to that conclusion about Insurance Journal or me. That’s quite a sweeping indictment. And are you really saying that the remarks of a Supreme Court Justice are off limits as well? Andy Simpson

First, our convention is for our members. We credential only mainstream publicly available news media and legitimate legal press. Only those with credentials may attend convention events, including the opening plenary. I make and suggested no judgment about you. But Insurance Journal is neither a mainstream news organization nor legal trade press. Insurance Journal has a history in support of the insurance industry and its viewpoints, which is not surprising given its audience. I hope that clarifies the situation. Carlton Carl

By the way, I am a reporter/editor, not a mouthpiece for the insurance industry, and Insurance Journal carries opinions of all kinds, not just those favored by insurers. Our target audience is in fact independent insurance agents, not insurance companies. Your press credentials on your web site say nothing about “mainstream media and legitimate legal press” only. While I respect your right as a private organization to control access to your meeting, do you think we might do some good in helping insurance agents get to better understand trial lawyers and their concerns? Andy Simpson

Again, your publication has a history. If the nature of it and its point of view have somehow changed, I would be happy to peruse the evidence. We implement our policy on credentials as we see fit. My parents were insurance agents. And I know what influence insurance companies generally have over agents, both employed by the companies and independent. I would be happy to discuss with you at a later time how agents could be educated about trial lawyer issues—-fundamentally the preservation of their clients’ (and all Americans’) rights. Indeed, agents should be concerned about what the insurance industry too often does to adversely affect their clients, or those injured by their clients, who have legitimate claims. Perhaps Insurance Journal could publish articles that highlight the many abuses of the insurance industry. Carlton Carl

For your information, Insurance Journal does publish lots of stories about abuses of the insurance industry, just as it does abuses of trial lawyers when they occur. I must say in my 25 years in journalism I have never encountered such a hostile and negative response to a simple request to cover a few speeches at a convention. I am also unaware of any policy by any insurance organization that would prohibit a trial bar legal reporter from attending an insurance convention. Are you sure you are representing the wishes of ATLA members and officers? Andy Simpson

I’d be happy to see your coverage of insurance abuses. I do not believe I have expressed hostility. I merely said “no” because of our credentialling policy. When you appealed that decision, I explained other reasons that would have dictated the same decision even if your publication had met the threshold requirements. I assure you our publications’ representatives have been excluded from various insurance, Chamber of Commerce and other such events. And I resent very much your implication that I might not be representing the wishes of ATLA. I am quite confident that I made the correct decision. Carlton Carl

This final reply was not sent as an email:
Yes, Mr. Carl, you seem “quite confident” and resentful about many things and obviously feel compelled to lecture others about rights when you could be welcoming dialogue. During your stay in Boston, home of Paul Revere, I hope you got the opportunity to ride down the Freedom Trail on your high horse… and fell off.