What New Report on Court Caseloads Says...and Does Not Say
Posted on 10/31/2012 @ 01:00 PM
Last week a report on state court caseloads was released by the Court Statistics Project, a joint effort of the Conference of State Court Administrators, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for State Courts.
Included among the report's findings is that the total incoming civil caseload across all states is up 20% since 2001. Additionally California courts have been unable to clear cases from their dockets in a timely manner. The pending caseloads for civil and criminal cases continues to grow, and in fact the state's clearance rate for criminal cases was the lowest in the nation in 2010. This is a sad reminder that this growing caseload combined with unprecedented court budget cuts will only mean longer and longer delays in resolving disputes.
These court delays mean businesses must spend great amounts of time and money on cases where they are wrongfully sued – meaning they could eventually prevail on a demurer, or win a summary judgment motion - but only after spending months or years in litigation and thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars on their own defense attorneys.
The plaintiffs' bar, meanwhile, is trying to claim that the report shows California does not suffer from excessive litigation (the report found that in 2010 the number of civil cases filed per capita in California was below the national median).
There are a few things we must note on this point.
First, the report doesn’t tell you anything about the cases. According to the report there were still 1,235,421 civil cases filed in California in 2010 – more than any other state. The state-by-state comparison doesn't say anything about the scale of the cases, the dollar amounts involved, the impact they had, or how many could be considered frivolous.
Second, the report looks only at 2010 - just a one-year snapshot of filings.
Finally, this statistic doesn't include settlements that are reached prior to an actual filing - something we know happens regularly with ADA cases, for example.
We are very appreciative of the work the Court Statistics Project is doing to shine a light on the state of our court systems and we hope others will pay careful attention to what their work says, and what it does not say.
You can read the full report here.
CJAC Applauds Governor's Actions
Posted on 10/01/2012 @ 01:00 PM
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!
2012 Civil Justice Leadership Awards
By Todd Roberson on 09/28/2012 @ 11:48 AM
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!
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.