CJAC: Civil Justice Association of California

CJAC Applauds Governor's Actions

Posted on 10/01/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Legislature, Americans with Disabilities Act, Legal Climate

Governor Jerry Brown had until midnight last night to sign or veto all the bills remaining on his desk, and we are happy to report that the results were great for CJAC. Late last night Brown vetoed the one bill CJAC asked him to veto and earlier this month he signed two CJAC-supported bills.

Altogether, 30 of the 31 bills we opposed this year were either killed or adequately amended. CJAC's one veto request was for AB 2346, authored by Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles). The bill would have created major litigation traps for farmers by creating new ways to sue over working conditions for farm employees, even mere technical violations. The requirements would be enforceable by private lawsuits with lucrative awards of liquidated damages and only plaintiffs could get their attorney fees reimbursed.

In the Governor's veto message, which you can read here, he called AB 2346 a "flawed" bill that would "single out agricultural employers and burden the courts with private lawsuits." We couldn't agree more.

We were very pleased to see the Governor sign SB 1186 - the most serious attempt at ADA litigation reform to ever come out of the Legislature - and CJAC-sponsored AB 2274, which closes a loophole in the vexatious litigant statute.

We are cautiously optimistic about SB 1186. While it does not go as far as we would have preferred, there should hopefully be some relief provided by the restrictions the bill has created on plaintiffs' lawyers that want to exploit the ADA and the reductions in penalties for property owners that are making good faith efforts to comply. SB 1186 went into effect immediately upon being signed and we will be closely monitoring how it works in practice.

As for AB 2274 regarding vexatious litigants, we are grateful to Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) for authoring the bill. A vexatious litigant is someone who is suing solely for the purpose of harassment without even hiring an attorney. AB 2274 will prevent vexatious litigants from getting around the current restrictions by hiring an attorney just for the initial filing of a lawsuit. They will now have to retain an attorney throughout the entire case.

The 2011-12 legislative session is now officially over and we are pleased to have helped keep California's legal climate from getting worse while making some incremental progress with ADA and vexatious litigant reform. Thank you to all of our members and partners who helped make it happen!

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2012 Civil Justice Leadership Awards

By Todd Roberson on 09/28/2012 @ 11:48 AM

Tags: Legislature

CJAC has selected this year's recipients of our Civil Justice Leadership Awards and we are proud to announce the following five legislators as award recipients:

Asm. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) - Lara authored AB 2274, a CJAC-sponsored bill signed into law that closes a loophole in the vexatious litigant statute, making it easier to restrict plaintiffs who repeatedly file meritless lawsuits. He has also been active in raising awareness of lawsuit abuse through events in his district.

Asm. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) - Pan is a physician who still practices and has been a voice of reason when the plaintiffs bar tries to use junk science to create new forms of liability.

Asm. Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) - Nestande has authored two bills to reform California's class action laws (AB 271 and AB 1954) and was a strong advocate for hot-air balloon companies in his district that were victims of baseless nuisance lawsuits.

Asm. Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) - Buchanan has supported efforts to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and its overly litigious processes. She authored AB 900 in 2011 to streamline judicial review of CEQA legal challenges on clean energy or "green" projects. She also authored AB 2406 this year, which created greater transparency on intervenors and the attorney fees they seek in setting insurance rates. Both were signed into law. She also has been a consistent voice of reason opposing measures that would make California's legal environment even worse.

Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) - Rubio has also taken a leading role in working for CEQA reform so that important projects are not needlessly delayed by lawsuits filed for reasons unrelated to the environment. He has also regularly opposed attempts to make it easier and more profitable to sue.

Congratulations to all of our award recipients and thank you for your leadership!

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Court Funding Luncheon Recap

By Todd Roberson on 09/14/2012 @ 04:48 PM

Tags: Courts

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Our luncheon on the state court funding crisis, co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), was held in San Francisco yesterday and was a great success. California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (pictured here between CJAC President Kim Stone on the left and ILR President Lisa Rickard on the right) delivered an excellent keynote speech, which was followed by an outstanding panel discussion on how to protect and enhance court funding.

We would like to thank our panelists once again:

  • James Brosnahan, Attorney with the Morrison Foerster firm
  • John McDonnell, American Bar Association California State Delegate
  • Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
  • William Robinson, Immediate Past President of the American Bar Association
  • Jon Streeter, President of the State Bar of California

Over 70 people were in attendance and the event was covered by KRON, the Bay Area's NBC affiliate, which ran a story on their 6:00 news show that night!

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Chief Justice to Speak at CJAC & U.S. Chamber Luncheon on Court Funding Crisis

By Todd Roberson on 09/05/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Courts

We are excited to report that California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye will be the keynote speaker at a September 13th luncheon in San Francisco co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) and CJAC. The luncheon will focus on the importance of an appropriately funded state court system. Additionally, a panel of experts from the business and legal communities, including ILR President Lisa Rickard, will share their views on the current court funding crisis in California and other states.

If you are interested in attending you can find more info here. Please RSVP to Susan Loscotoff at sloscotoff@cjac.org or 916-443-4900. The event has also been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California.

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End of Session Recap: Plaintiffs' Lawyers #1 Priority Killed, ADA reform on Gov's Desk

By Todd Roberson on 09/04/2012 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Legislature

We are excited to report that two CJAC-supported bills (a substantive ADA litigation reform bill - SB 1186 - and a CJAC-sponsored bill targeting vexatious litigants - AB 2274), are on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature!

Additionally, CJAC was able to kill or adequately amend 26 of the 28 bills we opposed this year. Most importantly, we were able to stop the number one priority of the plaintiffs' lawyers - SB 1528. That bill would have undermined last year's California Supreme Court ruling in Howell v. Hamilton Meats by allowing certain injured plaintiffs to recover inflated damages for medical expenses above and beyond the costs that were actually incurred, which would result in a windfall for plaintiffs' lawyers and dramatically higher insurance bills for all consumers. A large coalition worked hard throughout the year to stop SB 1528 and we earned a major victory!

A bill we oppose that is still pending before the Governor is AB 2346, authored by Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles), which would create major litigation traps for farmers by creating new ways to sue over working conditions for farm employees, even mere technical violations. The requirements would be enforceable by private lawsuits with lucrative awards of liquidated damages and only plaintiffs could get their attorney fees reimbursed.

SB 1186, joint-authored by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), was substantially amended in the final weeks of session and is now a serious attempt at cracking down on disabled access lawyers by prohibiting pre-lawsuit settlement demand letters, reducing statutory damages, restricting "stacked" claims from plaintiffs who allege the same violation multiple times, and increasing funding for certified access specialists, among other changes. While the bill does not go as far as we would have preferred, it should provide some relief to business owners. We are urging Governor Brown to sign it and we are looking forward to seeing how it works in practice. Click here to read more about it.

The CJAC-sponsored bill that has made it to the Governor - AB 2274 authored by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) - sailed through the Legislature. It will strengthen California's "vexatious litigant" statute by requiring vexatious litigants to obtain court approval for additional filings when they have fired their attorney. Vexatious litigants must receive pre-approval from the courts for future filings and may be ordered to pay for a bond to cover the initial costs of the filing unless they have engaged an attorney. Unfortunately, under current law they only need to retain an attorney at the outset of a case to avoid this obligation, not throughout the entire case. AB 2274 would close that loophole.

We urge you to contact the Governor's office as soon as possible (the deadline to sign or veto bills is September 30th) and tell him to sign SB 1186 and AB 2274, and to veto AB 2346! You can either call 916-445-2841 or send an email by clicking here.

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