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Cheers to Swanson, jeers to Palin

Cheers to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, who has been named one of America's top 10 lawyers of the year by the publication Lawyers USA.

At the end of each year, Lawyers USA selects for its "Lawyers of the Year" award individuals who have made a significant impact on the law during the past year.

Lawyers USA honored Swanson for the work she's done "leveling the playing field for consumers in 2009."

In particular, Lawyers USA cited Swanson's groundbreaking lawsuit against the National Arbitration Forum, the nation's largest arbitrator of consumer credit disputes.

The publication wrote:

"She toppled the dominant player in debt arbitration in the country and changed the face of consumer credit card arbitration overnight."

Lori Swanson, Minnesota's Attorney General, filed a consumer fraud suit against the National Arbitration Forum in July, alleging that the firm worked closely with creditors and debt collectors behind the scenes, against the interests of consumers, while claiming to be a neutral forum.

Five days later, she secured a consent decree in which the NAF, without admitting blame, agreed to cease its credit card arbitration business.

Within days, the American Arbitration Association announced that it too would stop its involvement in consumer debt collection arbitration until it could develop standards.

In the consumer law world, it was a shocker.

Consumer attorneys hailed Swanson's work as "the finest piece of lawyering in consumer practice in years..."


Jeers to Sarah Palin , who won Politifact's "Lie of the Year" contest for coming up with the whopper about "death panels."

In the heat of the national debate over health care, Palin weighed in with this statement:

Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."

Politifact says the claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion.

In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

The editors of, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as their inaugural "Lie of the Year."

Democrats in the House introduced a bill July 14 that closely mirrored President Barack Obama's campaign promises on health care.

The bill increased regulation of insurance companies, proposed a national health insurance exchange where individuals and small business could shop for plans, expanded health programs for the poor, and gave incentives to doctors and hospitals for efficiency and improved care.

It did not promote euthanasia.

The phrase "death panels" appears to be original to Palin. A search of news databases showed no use prior to her Facebook posting.