Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer is a Washington Monthly contributing editor.

Recent Articles

Class-Action Warfare

During the second presidential debate last year, audience member Norma-Jean Laurent posed a tough question for Democratic challenger John Kerry. Laurent noted that Kerry had bemoaned the rising cost of health care for Americans. So how, she wanted to know, could he reconcile this campaign plank with his choice of a running mate who had made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals?

Backlog or Backfire?

When supporters of “class-action reform,” which passed in the Senate last week, talk about the alleged horrors of class-action litigation, they frequently hold up the tiny, impoverished, and mostly black Jefferson County, Mississippi, as Exhibit A. “Reformers” allege that current state laws allow plaintiffs' lawyers to “forum shop” for a friendly court, such as Jefferson County, where the itty-bitty courthouse doesn't even posses a computerized docketing system -- yet where Circuit Court Judge Lamar Pickard has presided over a number of multimillion-dollar, mass lawsuits filed against some of the nation's biggest corporations. The American Tort Reform Association has dubbed the court a “judicial hellhole.”

Insurance Impunity

One day in 1973, 65-year-old Elmer Norman went to his doctor for some hearing tests and a prescription for antibiotics to treat an ear infection. But when Norman submitted the bills to Colonial Penn Franklin, his health insurer, the company denied his $48 claim, arguing, among other things, that the prescription drug he'd received wasn't actually a prescription drug and therefore wasn't covered. Incensed, Norman contacted William Shernoff, the famous California trial attorney who'd won a landmark lawsuit against an insurance company a few years earlier.

Endless Campaign

As Democrats continue to examine the wreckage of November's midterm elections and calculate just how badly Republicans outspent them (by a ratio of 5-to-3), they might want to take a closer look at the role of Gov. George W. Bush. Yes, that's Gov. Bush, not President Bush. Over the past year, not only did the president barnstorm the country campaigning for critical Republican candidates, he also lent the support of his Texas gubernatorial campaign committee, which has been running strong since he was elected governor of Texas in 1998.

Children Left Behind

In early October, Nakia Burgess had just gotten a job as a transcriber in Atlanta. She had already lost two other jobs because of her inability to secure reliable and affordable child care for her 3-year-old daughter, Asan'te, who had Down syndrome. So when the temp agency she had signed up with sent her out for a new assignment, Burgess was desperate to hang on to the position. But on her second day, her child-care arrangement fell through. She took Asan'te to work with her and left the girl in the car on the company's parking deck. Burgess came out periodically to check on the child, but after only 90 minutes, Asan'te was unconscious. The temperature that day had risen to 85 degrees, and it was even higher inside the car.