Trial Lawyers PHAI-ning Obesity Concern, Again

In April The New York Times reported that Richard “even trial lawyers call me ‘greedy'” Daynard of the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) “says the institute will file suits against the food industry within the year.” More recently, PHAI announced that it will play host to yet another trial lawyer conference designed to litigate away our food choices. Last year’s conference was “intended to encourage and support litigation against the food industry.”

At the upcoming PHAI confab, Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell will once again lead the charge to undermine the concept of personal responsibility. Brownell signaled his support for litigation as a means to whip us into shape in PHAI’s announcement, saying: “Combining advocacy with the law is a key means of stimulating reform. PHAI brings to this effort both talent and vigor.”

What kind of “talent” does PHAI have to offer? As its “managing attorney,” the group has hired Jason Smith, a board member of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). This nutty organization has demanded President Bush be prosecuted for war crimes, and its national executive committee recommended seeking impeachment of U.S. Supreme Court justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and William Rehnquist. An NLG member who’s addressed the group’s national conference was charged with helping Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman communicate with his terror network. Abdel-Rahman was found guilty and sentenced for life in 1995 for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks, including the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, the United Nations, and the George Washington Bridge. And the group once named convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal an honorary “national vice president.”

Last year’s PHAI conference featured the likes of Brownell, “Socialist Scholar” Marion Nestle, and top food cop Michael Jacobson. This year’s speakers list includes David Ludwig, a professor at Harvard whose high-profile studies attacking fast food and soda regularly call for intrusive legislation. Ludwig’s appearance at PHAI’s conference, and his implicit endorsement of obesity lawsuits, signals one more step in his transition from scientist to activist.

Late last year we revealed that, as a PR flack for trial lawyers targeting automakers, then-PHAI executive director Ben Kelley had orchestrated what the Los Angeles Times called “the biggest TV scam since the Quiz Scandals.” Shortly after our report, Kelly left his post as executive director to run PHAI’s “Motor Vehicle Hazards Archives Project.” Now it seems that Kelley’s back at the obesity lawsuit trough. He is scheduled to speak to this year’s gaggle of trial lawyers.

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