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Linda Lipsen to become head of American Association for Justice

By Dan Eggen
Sunday, May 2, 2010; 10:54 PM

The American Association for Justice, a trial lawyers group that serves as one of the Democratic Party's most influential political allies, will announce Monday that its longtime top lobbyist has been named chief executive officer.

Linda Lipsen, who has headed the group's advocacy and lobbying team for 17 years, was approved on Saturday by the AAJ board, officials said. Lipsen will succeed Tom Henderson, who held the job on an interim basis for the past year.

AAJ, which until 2006 was known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is one of heaviest hitters in Washington politics and focuses on heading off tort reform policies, such as limits on medical malpractice awards, which it maintains would hurt consumers.

The group has given $32 million to federal candidates over the past two decades, with about 90 percent of that going to Democrats. The association has also become a potent lobbying force in recent years, spending nearly $6 million since the start of 2009, disclosure records show.

Lipsen helped lead efforts to hold off GOP demands for medical malpractice limits as part of President Obama's health-care overhaul. Republicans said limits would dramatically curb medical costs, but Democrats and many health-care experts said caps have had little apparent effect on costs in states that have tried them. The final overhaul bill includes money for pilot projects aimed at lowering malpractice costs.

"Trial attorneys have been a powerful force in holding wrongdoers accountable and protecting the public," Lipsen said in a statement to be released Monday. "While their profession and the civil justice system have been attacked by negligent corporations for decades, our resolve and sense of purpose has only deepened."

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