Non-profit

American Association for Justice

Website:

www.justice.org/

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

04-2114561

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(6)

Budget (2020):

Revenue: $25,699,510
Expenses: $24,893,404
Assets: $13,285,207

Type:

Professional Association

CEO:

Linda Lipsen

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) is a left-of-center professional association comprised of individual trial lawyers as its membership. The association was founded in the 1940s and was known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America until it rebranded in 2006.

The AAJ is very active in supporting left-of-center legal procedure policies. It is most active in opposing tort reform at the state and federal level, and opposing out-of-court arbitration agreements, both positions that create more opportunities for trial lawyers to continue to lodge largescale class-action and other lawsuits. The AAJ’s political action committee is a major contributor to Democratic campaigns, contributing over $2.2 million to Democratic candidates in the 2020 election cycle. [1] [2]

Background and History

What is now the American Association for Justice was founded in 1946 when a small group of plaintiff’s attorneys involved in workers’ compensation litigation met in Portland, Oregon. The attendees agreed to form a new organization to “combat new threats” facing trial lawyers around the country. The organization formed was initially called the National Association of Claimants’ Compensation Attorneys (NACCA). Over time, the group grew to include trial attorneys involved in other litigation, such as admiralty, railroad, and personal-injury lawyers.

As the organization grew it changed its name three times to reflect various changes in its membership until it became the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) in 1971, and the same year, the organization moved its headquarters from Boston to Washington, D.C. [3]

Throughout its history, the AAJ been critical of businesses and supported laws allowing further opportunities for trial lawyers to lodge large scale lawsuits against large businesses, putting the group at odds with pro-business organizations, especially the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. [4]

Name Change

In 2006, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America voted to change its name to the American Association for Justice at the group’s annual convention in Seattle. The group’s membership voted 390-91 for the change with the board of governors of the group having previously 91-5 for the change. [5]

Then-ATLA president Ken Suggs used the name change as an opportunity to attack “big business, charging that the American justice system is under attack by powerful corporations.” He further stated that the name change reflected “what we do, not who our members are.” [6]

Critics of the name change called the move “cosmetic surgery” for the group and said that the group was dropping trial lawyers from its name due to the unpopularity of such lawyers in the United States. Chief among the critics of the group and its new name was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for Legal Reform, which called the change “an astounding admission of the unpopularity of trial lawyers in America.” The Chamber charged that the unpopularity of trial lawyers was due to “decades of abuse of the civil justice system by some of their members [that] have created a sue-happy litigation climate that results in lost jobs, higher consumer prices, and ultimately, little justice for anyone-even the victims that they represent.” [7]

The U.S. Chamber and its Institute for Legal Reform set up a website title “Same Leopard New Spots” criticizing the group and its new name. The U.S. Chamber also detailed a similar trend occurring within state-level trial lawyers’ associations that were dropping the term “trial lawyers” from their names, such as the Louisiana Trial Lawyers’ Association becoming the Louisiana Association of Justice. The website also listed survey results showing that trial lawyers’ favorability was down 31 percent and that out of a 100-point favorability score, the American Association for Justice name scored 13 points higher than the ATLA name. [8]

Policy Stances

The American Association for Justice lobbies for various pro-trial-lawyer policies at the state and federal level as well as conducting legal advocacy and submitting amicus curiae briefs in federal and state court cases. [9]

One of the highest priority issues supported by the AAJ is advocating for the elimination of forced-arbitration agreements, which would prohibit employers and employees to enter agreements to settle disputes via private arbitration, creating more opportunities for lawsuits. The organization supports federal legislation sponsored by congressional Democrats titled the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, also known as the FAIR Act. The AAJ also generally opposes tort and lawsuit-reform efforts that are aimed at cutting down on the number of frivolous lawsuits filed in the United States. [10]

Other federal issues supported by the AAJ include an elimination of the qualified immunity doctrine which affords immunity from lawsuits to police officers and other government employees in certain circumstances, an increase in the minimum insurance that truckers are required to carry, and allowing employers to be held liable for employees who catch COVID-19. [11]

The AAJ also files amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts on cases that affect the trial bar at large and affect issues supported by the organization. Members of the AAJ are able to request that the group file a brief on their behalf. [12]

At the state level, the AAJ supports the use of “public nuisance” laws to sue opioid manufacturers, tobacco and nicotine companies, and other companies, creating opportunities for large-scale class-action lawsuits. The group also is active in state legislation on asbestos, electric scooters, and automated driving, providing members with information on how to lodge lawsuits against such companies. [13]

Open Secrets has reported that the AAJ spent over $4.6 million in 2021, making it the 144th highest lobbying spender. [14]

Political Activity

The American Association for Justice operates a political action committee called the American Association for Justice Political Action Committee (AAJ PAC). The group’s PAC is a major funder of Democratic campaigns. The group contributed $2.2 million to Democratic candidates during the 2020 cycle while contributing just $54,000 to Republicans. [15]

Top recipients of the PAC include the America Votes Action Fund, Ohioans for Justice and Integrity, Shield PAC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. [16]

Leadership

Linda Lipsen is the chief executive officer of the American Association for Justice and has held the position since 2010 after previously working as the group’s top lobbyist. She earned over $1 million in compensation in her position from August 2019 through July 2020, according to AAJ’s nonprofit tax return. [17] [18]

References

  1. “American Association for Justice PAC 2020.” Open Secrets. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/political-action-committees-pacs/american-assn-for-justice/C00024521/summary/2020 ^
  2. “About Us.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/about-us ^
  3. “About Us.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/about-us ^
  4. Knef, Ann. “ATLA drops ‘Trial Lawyer,’ adds ‘Justice’ to name.” West Virginia Record. July 19, 2006. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://wvrecord.com/stories/510590671-atla-drops-trial-lawyer-adds-justice-to-name ^
  5. Knef, Ann. “ATLA drops ‘Trial Lawyer,’ adds ‘Justice’ to name.” West Virginia Record. July 19, 2006. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://wvrecord.com/stories/510590671-atla-drops-trial-lawyer-adds-justice-to-name ^
  6. [1] Knef, Ann. “ATLA drops ‘Trial Lawyer,’ adds ‘Justice’ to name.” West Virginia Record. July 19, 2006. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://wvrecord.com/stories/510590671-atla-drops-trial-lawyer-adds-justice-to-name ^
  7. Knef, Ann. “ATLA drops ‘Trial Lawyer,’ adds ‘Justice’ to name.” West Virginia Record. July 19, 2006. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://wvrecord.com/stories/510590671-atla-drops-trial-lawyer-adds-justice-to-name ^
  8. “Home” Same Leopard New Spots. Accessed via Wayback machine September 19, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20080208172320/http://www.sameleopardnewspots.com/ ^
  9. [1] “Our Issues.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/advocacy/our-issues ^
  10. “Our Issues.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/advocacy/our-issues ^
  11. “Our Issues.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/advocacy/our-issues ^
  12. “Amicus Curiae Program.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/advocacy/legal-affairs/amicus-curiae-program ^
  13. “State Affairs.” American Association for Justice. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.justice.org/advocacy/state-affairs ^
  14. “American Association for Justice.” Open Secrets. Accessed October 3, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/american-assn-for-justice/summary?id=D000000065 ^
  15. “American Association for Justice PAC 2020.” Open Secrets. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/political-action-committees-pacs/american-assn-for-justice/C00024521/summary/2020 ^
  16. “American Association for Justice PAC Summary.” Open Secrets. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/american-assn-for-justice/summary?id=D000000065 ^
  17. “Eggen, Dan. “Linda Lipsen to become head of American Association for Justice.” Washington Post. May 2, 2010. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/02/AR2010050203790.html ^
  18. “IRS Form 990” American Association for Justice. Tax Year 2019. Accessed September 19, 2022. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/42114561/202131269349302083/full ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Lisa Blue Baron
    Past President
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: July - June
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1977

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Jul Form 990 $25,699,510 $24,893,404 $13,285,207 $18,208,031 Y $0 $25,201,183 $24,032 $2,122,593
    2019 Jul Form 990 $27,091,496 $28,084,894 $14,064,947 $18,806,193 Y $0 $26,541,422 $42,301 $2,044,385 PDF
    2018 Jul Form 990 $26,675,740 $26,675,393 $13,545,161 $17,236,286 Y $1,697,795 $24,483,556 $36,499 $1,826,105 PDF
    2017 Jul Form 990 $31,423,225 $26,742,130 $12,135,100 $15,753,288 Y $6,141,971 $24,368,220 $14,488 $1,895,017 PDF
    2016 Jul Form 990 $24,859,177 $27,179,429 $7,843,440 $15,903,477 Y $1,121,481 $22,976,915 $4,685 $1,816,566
    2015 Jul Form 990 $26,360,183 $26,181,557 $10,339,076 $15,319,960 Y $2,119,170 $22,582,288 $4,367 $1,544,919 PDF
    2014 Jul Form 990 $26,127,576 $25,388,651 $11,586,538 $16,128,580 Y $2,097,914 $21,611,988 $3,233 $1,416,645 PDF
    2013 Jul Form 990 $25,303,531 $24,620,026 $13,078,990 $18,390,860 Y $1,883,346 $21,179,412 $1,997 $1,747,206 PDF
    2012 Jul Form 990 $23,647,640 $24,604,886 $13,230,465 $19,903,850 Y $272,484 $21,396,272 $64,107 $1,423,048 PDF
    2011 Jul Form 990 $25,479,641 $25,580,584 $14,679,503 $19,274,468 Y $1,476,730 $20,871,821 $1,890 $1,229,291 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    American Association for Justice

    777 6TH STREET NW
    WASHINGTON, DC 20001-3723