New Missouri governor Eric Greitens is a self-described humanitarian, and has written numerous books on the importance of helping others. So it is a bit puzzling to us, when our mission and motivation is helping others, that Mr. Greitens attacks trial lawyers as “nasty,” and vows to shut us down. As Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out in an op-ed, it is those who are seriously injured who are put at risk by the proposals of Mr. Greitens and his allies.

According to the Governor, Missouri is the place where the “nastiest lawyers come to do work so dirty, and engage in lawsuits so murky, they wouldn’t pass muster anywhere else.” When Mr. Greitens talks about “murky” lawsuits, he is talking about the differing evidentiary standards for admitting expert testimony in court. In order for expert witnesses to testify in court, they have to actually be experts. The judge in the case typically makes a determination about whether or not to allow any given expert to testify. But the standards for evaluating experts differ depending on the court. In Federal court, the Daubert standard applies, which requires the judge to decide whether testimony is scientifically valid. In Missouri, the standard depends on whether the expert’s opinion is based on information typically used by others in the field, and the information must also be “reasonably reliable.”

There is nothing “murky” about the Missouri standard—it simply asks the court a different question than the Federal standard. The focus in Missouri is on the standard practice used by other experts in the same field. By contrast, in federal court, the focus of the Daubert inquiry is on the judge’s own assessment of scientific validity of the expert’s opinion.

Both approaches have their critics. The federal Daubert standard poses a potential ethical conflict of interest for the judge—judges are not supposed to rely on information outside what is presented as evidence by the parties in the lawsuit. But applying the Daubert standard requires judges to verify that an expert’s opinion is scientifically valid. The way scientists figure out if something is scientifically valid is by looking at all the evidence, not just what is admissible in court. Indeed, the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, which is the federal Court’s official guidance for judges, contains primers on various fields of science, including forensics and neuroscience. The manual speaks approvingly of instances where judges have hired their own experts to help understand the science involved. Having an expert (or experts) paid for by the government in every case, however, is not financially viable. Even if judges are able to hire their own experts, judges are not scientists—asking them to independently investigate the scientific validity of experts in every field they encounter may be asking the impossible.

Putting the burden on judges to become scientists obviously has its problems, but the Missouri standard has its own critics. The major drawback of the current Missouri system, as well as the Frye test adopted in many other states, is that it prevents parties from presenting new theories, even if they have very good evidence. Experts are required to show that their opinions are valid by comparing them with what is accepted in their industry; if their theories are new, there is nothing to compare them with. But new ideas are necessary in cases involving novel wrongdoing. For example, suppose a company invents a new chemical that is highly toxic and then dumps it in a public waterway, poisoning members of the public. This is certainly the kind of case where our system should provide justice for the injured. But if the chemical is entirely new, there might not yet be any scientific studies on it—so an expert hired for an injured person would have to come up with a new scientific analysis. This is the kind of testimony that might be allowed under the federal Daubert standard, but might be excluded under the Missouri standard.

The bottom line is that both systems have their problems. But the Missouri model is more efficient, and appropriately places the burden of establishing scientific validity on scientists, not judges.

Mr. Greitens also wants to effectively eliminate consumer class actions in Missouri. These are cases where an individual consumer may be defrauded of a small amount of money—sometimes just $5 or $10—but when the fraud is committed against millions of people, the company makes millions in illegal profits. Normally, no lawyer could afford to take a case like this on behalf of an individual because they would have to work for free. And the state attorney general’s office only has limited resources—public spending to combat fraud is not generally a big budget priority. If each case must be pursued individually, wrongdoers can rest assured that they can go ahead and profit massively from fraud, as long as each individual consumer is only harmed in a small way.

But if all the individual cases can be put together in a class action, the perpetrators can be held accountable. The Governor spoke misleadingly about lawyers earning fees even when a client receives just one dollar—this only happens when there are thousands or millions of class members who each receive their own small recovery. This is not to mention that the main goal of these class actions is often stopping the fraudulent practices and holding the company accountable—a job somebody has to do. Mr. Greitens has written of the importance of accepting the “consequences—good and bad—of your actions.” If his proposal for altering Missouri law to eliminate consumer class actions succeeds, the law will no longer hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.

The Governor also wants to change venue and joinder rules to keep out of state parties out of Missouri courts. But under the current rules, it is necessary to have at least one participant who is a Missouri citizen in order to keep the case in Missouri. And cases involving multiple different parties have to be somewhere. The only people this proposal helps are out-of-state corporations—while hurting Missourians who want to keep their cases in local courts.

The bottom line is that Mr. Greitens wants to make it harder for injured individuals to enjoy the protections of the law, and make it easier for wrongdoers to get away with fraud. As trial attorneys whose goal it is to seek justice, we share certain principles with the Governor—commitment to ethics, responsibility and doing the right thing. These principles require opposition to these “tort reform” measures—whose only function is insulating wrongdoers from accountability.