The 2014 CALA Legal Reform Wish List
Despite some successful reforms in recent years, California still needs to do a lot more on the legal reform front. For decades, this state has heaped on more and more laws and regulations which create more and more lawsuits. Simply introducing a bill and doing a minor tweak to reduce abuse in isolated areas is not enough.
Just last month, California was given the distinction for the second year in a row of being the nation’s #1 “Judicial Hellhole.” There are many reasons for that and everyone should take notice.
California has a real opportunity to turn things around on the legal reform front and here are just a few ways it could do it:
- Stop Proposition 65 Shakedown Lawsuits – I have said it before: while ADA lawsuits are a shakedown, Prop. 65 lawsuits are even worse. While there was minimal reform in 2013 with AB 227, more must be done. I am hopeful that the Governor will again try to tackle this issue. Instead of trying to make several reforms simultaneously, he should focus on one: litigation. You can protect the environment without shakedown lawsuits.
- ADA Reform – Do I sound like a broken record? A bipartisan group of legislators passed ADA reform during the 2012 legislative session. This was a good first step, but much more needs to be done at both the state and federal level. There is the Federal ACCESS Act by Congressman Ken Calvert and I would seriously like to see U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduce a federal corrective action bill. These lawsuits disproportionately target minority and immigrant owned businesses in low-income communities and must be stopped.
- Class Action Reform – It seems like every day I am reading about another class action case in which a big settlement is reached giving trial attorneys millions of dollars while consumers receive only a coupon worth a few dollars. We need to fix our class-action system to prevent this abuse.
- CEQA Reform – Lawsuits are a huge part of the abuse of our CEQA laws and they often have nothing to do with the environment. No movement toward reform took place in 2013. We need reform to create a balanced approach that works for everyone.
- Transparency in the Public Sector – A 2013 CALA report found that just a handful of California cities and counties spent more than $1 billion on litigation over four years. With public budgets strained at every level of government, taxpayers deserve to know when their taxes are being spent on litigation.
- No More Private Rights of Action – A “Private Right of Action” permits lawsuits alleging a law or statute has been violated by private citizens, i.e.: personal injury lawyers. The plaintiffs’ attorney lobby specializes in hiding these job-killing provisions deep in initiatives and bills, such as in in Prop. 37 in 2012. This needs to stop.
- Bipartisan Cooperation on Legal Reform – We saw it on AB 227 and elsewhere in 2013 legislative session. We all want this state’s economy to improve, and I think there are a lot of pragmatic people who believe we can find solutions without encouraging more lawsuits.
- Increased Participation in Jury Service – While the jury service system has certainly improved, more people need to stop making excuses and take the time to serve on a jury.
- Greater Awareness of Exploitative Lawsuit Lending- We are starting to see legislation in other states to address the issue of predatory lawsuit lending – a practice in which victims are enticed into taking out payday-style loans to with astronomical interest rates to fund lawsuits, regardless of the merit of those suits. We need to protect those most likely to be victimized by these unregulated lawsuit lenders.
- Restore Court Funding – The funding for California’s court system has been cut drastically – by more than $1 billion – over the past five years, and 51 courthouses and 205 courtrooms have been closed. With fewer judges and courtrooms, abusive lawsuits can further clog our court system and delay justice for those who deserve it.
Elected officials and candidates at all levels need to make the issue of legal reform as important as taxes and regulatory reform. California needs to create jobs, and one way to boost job creation is to pass legal reform, plain and simple.