Court Funding Luncheon Recap
By Todd Roberson on 09/14/2012 @ 04:48 PM
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!
Chief Justice to Speak at CJAC & U.S. Chamber Luncheon on Court Funding Crisis
By Todd Roberson on 09/05/2012 @ 01:00 PM
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 Debbie Edgar at email@example.com or 916-443-4900. The event has also been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California.
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
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.
Legislature Returns for Final Month of Session
By Todd Roberson on 08/08/2012 @ 01:00 PM
On Monday the Legislature reconvened to finish the work of the 2011-12 session. Lawmakers will be considering hundreds of bills prior to the August 31st deadline, and here are a few of the hot issues that CJAC will be focused on over the next few weeks:
SB 1528 - This bill, authored by Senate President Darrell Steinberg, has taken various forms since being introduced earlier this year. But it is clear that the intent is to undermine the California Supreme Court's ruling last year in Howell v. Hamilton Meats, which held that a plaintiff may only collect as damages the amount that was actually paid by insurers for medical treatment rather than the retail rate that medical providers would charge for that treatment. The plaintiffs' lawyer lobby has made this bill their number one priority and has very publicly stated that the purpose of this bill is to overturn Howell. CJAC is part of a large coalition that will continue lobbying against the bill.
SB 1186 - Steinberg and Republican Senator Bob Dutton joint-authored this measure to help reduce ADA litigation. Unfortunately it is so watered down that the current version of the bill would be of very little help. The bill would, however, prohibit demands for settlement payments. Steinberg has said that there probably won't be an "explicit right to cure" in the bill, which would have given those who are threatened with litigation a brief period of time to make the necessary fixes to their facilities. CJAC is supporting the bill as a very small step forward and will be closely tracking any changes that are made to it.
AB 2346 - This bill, authored by Assemblymember Betsy Butler, would encourage excessive litigation by requiring a host of new, onerous obligations on farmers, which would be enforceable by private lawsuits with lucrative awards of liquidated damages and only plaintiffs could get their attorney’s fees reimbursed. Included among the new requirements would be to provide all farm workers with water that is not warmer than 70 degrees F and that must also be good tasting! Any technical violation of the many new requirements created by the bill would result in liquidated damages of $500 per day multiplied by the number of employees and a presumption of fraud. California already has tough rules regarding heat illness prevention for employees working outdoors and CJAC is part of another large coalition opposing the bill.
Stay tuned for updates...
Ninth Circuit Rejects Mini-Wheats Settlement Over Attorneys Fees, Cy Pres Award
By Todd Roberson on 07/17/2012 @ 01:00 PM
In yesterday's National Law Journal, Amanda Bronstad reports that a federal appeals court has rejected a class action settlement over alleged false advertising of a breakfast cereal, ruling that a plan to contribute some of the payout to charity bore no relation to the case and that the plaintiffs attorneys' fee award was excessively generous.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 13 reversed the trial judge who'd approved the settlement between Kellogg Co. and a nationwide class of consumers who alleged false advertising of its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal. Citing its 2011 decision in In re Bluetooth Headsets Litigation, the three-judge panel ruled that the settlement did not survive the heightened scrutiny that should be applied to class action settlements.
"The settlement provides no assurance that the charities to whom the money and food will be distributed will bear any nexus to the plaintiff class or to their false advertising claims and therefore violates our well-established standards governing cy pres awards," Senior Judge Stephen Trott wrote. "Moreover, the attorneys' fees are impermissibly high considering what the defective settlement provides the class."
Read the full article here (subscription required).