Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said Thursday that passage of extreme changes in the state’s civil justice system contained in Senate Bill 507 will severely cripple access to justice for everyday Oklahomans.
“I’m disappointed that a majority of the members of the Senate have chosen today to side with big corporations and restrict access to the courts for most of the people in our state. The opportunity to have your day in court is one of the most fundamental rights in this country. Justice shouldn’t be a commodity available only to those who can afford it,” Morgan said.
Democratic Floor Leader Charlie Laster pointed out that a year ago common sense legal reforms that he offered were rejected. Oklahoma is listed among 18 states with moderate systems of civil justice by the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform.
“Isn’t that where our legal system – which is represented by a set of scales – should be? Shouldn’t we be striving for balance? The most business-friendly organization in the country says Oklahoma’s court system is moderate. This legislation is extreme and will dramatically tip the scales of justice against everyday Oklahomans,” Laster said.
Morgan also rejected the argument that the extreme changes are necessary to keep doctors from leaving the state.
“Doctors in Oklahoma pay among the lowest malpractice premiums in the country. Oklahoma obstetricians play less than half as much as their counterparts in Texas and Missouri and only one-fourth the premiums paid by similar specialists in Florida,” Morgan said. “There is no exodus of doctors from Oklahoma.”
He pointed to the following facts:
The number of physicians practicing in Oklahoma has grown by 7.4 percent in recent years;
The number of new medical licenses issued has grown by 13 percent;
And both Oklahoma City and Tulsa are listed by Modern Physician magazine among the top 75 cities in which to practice medicine.
“This is another extreme solution looking for a problem. We don’t have jackpot justice in Oklahoma. Our doctors aren’t leaving the state. Big corporations won today and Oklahomans lost,” Morgan said. “But we’re not going to give up the fight. We’re going to continue to work to ensure equal access to justice for everyone no matter the size of their bank account.”