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Thank you for taking time to write August 11th. I share your concerns about frivolous lawsuits. I could mention others than tobacco, guns and Microsoft as I am sure you could. For example, Mr. Easley joined in the "Toys-R-Us" case where he and the other lawyers took the cash leaving only three years of gifts of Christmas toys to the consumers. I think also of the airline case where the plaintiffs got only coupons for future travel and the auto manufacturers’ lawsuit where the plaintiff got vouchers for their next vehicle purchase of the same make.
Don't get me wrong, however. Class action cases have a place and frequently bring about salutary changes in society and commerce that otherwise would never occur, or else be delayed for years. The care we must take is to weed out silly, baseless lawsuits and not let the courts and attorneys “legislate by litigation.” At the same time, we must not close courthouse doors to anyone who wishes to have a court of law adjudge the law and decide the facts.
Actions by the Federal Government (inspired and encouraged by joinder of most Democrat Attorneys General) bother me greatly. Politicians claim credit for the unparalleled economic status that you and I know goes to the entrepreneurial and financial risk takers on one hand and the industrious American working men and women on the other.
Specifically as to Microsoft, I am still trying to get a copy of the pleadings to which Mr. Easley has made North Carolina a party. All I know at this time is what I read in the newspapers, and I can say I don’t like what I read. It appears that the Federal Government (with the state attorneys general jumping on board) is taking sides between competitors. My basic philosophy is government has enough to do that it is not doing well or not doing at all. Intruding in free enterprise and favoring on business competitor over another is not what government is all about.
North Carolina has for years had laws against monopolistic and unfair trade practices. In fact, since at least 1868 our Constitution has had prohibitions. “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genesis of a free state and shall not be allowed.” The true monopolistic tobacco trusts and the railroad barons in the late 1890s and early 1900s bear no similarity to what Microsoft and other software developers do.
I am sorry to go on so long and don’t mean to bore you, but my idea of government is more basic and fundamental than most and probably will seem unique to many. Our governments, state and federal, have enough shortcomings in their dealing with basic public needs—health, safety, law enforcement, and the general welfare. Government needs to focus more on government and let a free economy and free enterprise run the business sector. That is not to say the efforts to each do not overlap. They require mutual cooperation and support by each of the other. Self-regulation is best but not possible. I believe in regulation but only what is reasonably necessary. Most business entities could not function without a proper modicum of regulation, but lately it is grossly overdone and tends to stifle progress.
As Attorney General I will be greatly involved in public safety and law enforcement. This is not a narrow area of concern as it may sound. Crime, drugs, violent crimes, consumer fraud to mention a few, are subjects that deserve government’s utmost and continual attention. However, corporations are citizens too and are entitled to most of the same constitutional guarantees as individuals. Corporate entities are not beasts. We would not have the good life we have without pioneers and risk takers like Edison, Ford and Gates.
I can tell you in detail the plethora of unlawful and unconstitutional activities Mr. Easly promoted in the tobacco settlement case. I will need to obtain and study the court papers and what else he has done in the Microsoft case to give you a more definitive reply that is deserved. I can say without qualification, I do not like what I have read and seen so far. As Attorney General, if I discover that continued participation in such a lawsuit would bring no benefit to North Carolina consumers, I would end North Carolina’s participation in the lawsuit and refocus precious taxpayer dollars to matters that do benefit North Carolina citizens.
Thanks again for your interest and participation in these issues.
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