Consumer, business groups fight over name change

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Associated Press

What’s in a name? Apparently a lot if you’re in politics.

The Association for California Tort Reform, a group that mainly represents businesses and lobbies for legislation that limits the ability to recover damages in court, announced Monday that it has changed its name to the Civil Justice Association of California.

But the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a consumers group based in Santa Monica, cried foul. It contends the name change is misleading and too close to a name the foundation reserved: Californians for Civil Justice.

Californians for Civil Justice was a campaign group that opposed a no-fault auto insurance initiative in 1996.

Foundation spokesman Doug Heller said the association’s leaders realize “people see through their name and know what they are about, so they put on a new mask.”

The foundation asked the secretary of state’s office to reject the name change. But Alfie Charles, a spokesman for Secretary of State Bill Jones, said it was approved last month.

Jamie Court, the foundation’s advocacy director, said his organization will seek a court order directing Jones to reject the change.

John Sullivan, the president of the Civil Justice Association, said his group changed its name not to improve its image but to better explain its areas of interest.

“We work on issues ranging from business practices to unfair competition, to securities issues, to arbitration,” he said. “Of course, it’s great not to have to explain the word tort all the time.”

He said it was ironic that Court’s group, which has been allied with trial lawyers in some campaign fights, “would be challenging anybody else on the basis of misleading the public.”

The trial lawyers, who represent plaintiffs in lawsuits, changed the name of their lobbying organization from the California Trial Lawyers Association to the Consumer Attorneys of California in 1995.

Consumer Watchdog
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