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Why does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dislike Detroit?

October 27, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

It’s no coincidence that the cities with the largest black populations are named by the Chamber as the “worst” court systems in the country …

Detroit car accidents

When writing this blog, I was very close to asking in my title, why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems to dislike black people?

That’s certainly what comes to my mind when I see Detroit and certain other cities being named by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform as one of the “worst local jurisdictions” in the “entire country” because it has one of “the least fair and reasonable litigation environments” in the U.S.

First, that is total nonsense.

Ask any Detroit attorney who actually practices law in Wayne County Circuit Court (where the majority of Detroit automobile accident cases end up), and he or she will tell you that juries are not representative at all of Detroit.   Whereas Detroit is predominantly African-American, the jury pools, especially in civil lawsuits, certainly are not. Most people who are called for jury duty are white people who live in the outlying suburbs, from cities like Northville and Plymouth. These are the people who sit on juries.

It isn’t the trial verdicts coming from Detroit. The trial verdicts coming from Detroit (Wayne County Circuit Court) in civil personal injury cases are far more in line with lily-white and wealthy Oakland County. Perhaps this explains why the insurance companies are taking more and more of these auto accident cases to trial in Detroit. If it was such an inhospitable place, you would think the insurance companies and the insurance defense attorneys would be trying to avoid trial, not pushing cases to trial.

And it isn’t the Detroit judges. Most of the judges are Republican appointees. Many are judicially conservative. If you ask me, and other plaintiff personal injury attorneys, most of these judges are erring repeatedly in favor of the insurance companies. It has gotten so bad in Wayne County that many plaintiff attorneys are actually choosing to file in other counties or in federal court to avoid these judges.

Judicial hellhole, Detroit certainly is not.

So why was Detroit named in the “2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States?”

It struck me as peculiar – to put it mildly – that the cities with the nation’s highest percentage of blacks and the country’s fourth largest black population was ranked by the Chamber as inhospitable to business, despite the facts.

Why does the Chamber hate Detroit?

The Chamber explained the reasons “why” Detroit was viewed so “negatively” and, thus, deemed to have one of the nation’s “worst city … courts” systems included:

  • “[B]iased or partial” juries and judges;
  • “[C]orrupt/unfair system”;
  • “[P]oor quality” of the juries and judges;
  • A “slow process” and “delays”; and,
  • “[E]xcessive damage awards.”

As I’ve written above, the facts certainly do not support this. And when these issues are combined with the conclusions of the Chamber survey and with the undeniable fact that nearly 83% of Detroit’s population is black, the question of whether – and to what extent – race is a contributing factor keeps coming up.

The same seems to apply to many of the other cities the Chamber selected.

It reminds me of my April 22, 2013, blog post, “Uninsured drivers in Detroit: How this has become a civil rights issue,” where I wrote:

“I say this [the harsh penalties for driving without the legally required Michigan No Fault auto insurance and the high prices that Detroiters must for such coverage] is a civil rights issue because our law is disenfranchising tens of thousands of mostly black, inner city Detroiters. The weight of this law falls disproportionately on these drivers because they are more likely to be driving uninsured.”

Whether what’s happening to Detroit’s court system (as reported by the Chamber’s survey) is intentional or otherwise, the impact on the system’s ability to deliver justice to a community that is comprised of far more blacks than the people who sit on its juries screams for something to be done.

After all, what does it say that lawmakers sit back and do nothing when the courts in a city that is 83% black has predominantly white juries in civil lawsuits?

Or, if we want to keep these false stereotypes going that the Chamber seems to fall back upon, and taking the Chamber at its word, that an African American city is plagued by biased, partial and poor quality juries and judges, a “corrupt” and “unfair” system and excessive damage awards?

Detroit’s black population

Detroit, Michigan, is ranked first for being the U.S. city with the “highest percentage of Blacks or African Americans,” according data from the 2010 U.S. Census. Blacks or African Americans comprise 82.7% of the city’s total population.   Additionally, Detroit’s black or African American population of 590,226 is the fourth highest in the U.S.

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_large_African-American_populations)

Something is wrong here. But it is with the Chamber, not with Detroit.

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