The fight for legal reform in California is about little victories. Fixing our legal climate so we aren’t driving businesses and jobs away is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a series of victories to turn this state's legal climate around. While the trial lawyer lobby will continue to try to exert their influence at the judicial, legislative and regulatory levels, we must be persistent in asking our elected officials to create jobs, not lawsuits.
Governor Brown is a smart guy. I believe the Governor understands how bad the business climate is in this state and how important it is to get it turned around. The fact that he signed AB 2274 (Lara), which will help stop litigants who repeatedly file abusive lawsuits, and SB 1186 (Steinberg/Dutton), which should help stop abusive ADA lawsuits, sent a clear message to the trial lawyers that we need to change the way we are doing business in California.
These two bills were common sense approaches to solving problems in this state. AB 2274 will strengthen California's vexatious litigant statute, which restricts individuals who repeatedly file abusive lawsuits from filing more lawsuits. AB 2274 will close a loophole that allows these individuals to get around the state’s vexatious litigant statute and continue filing abusive lawsuits.
SB 1186 by State Senators Steinberg and Dutton will provide some relief to small business owners who are trying to comply with the access laws in this state. While it won’t stop all ADA lawsuits, it will certainly make things better. CALA still believes there needs to be a federal response to the ADA lawsuit issue, and we hare hopeful that Congressman Lungren will reintroduce HR 3356 and that U.S. Senator Diann Feinstein will introduce legislation. We have seen that bipartisan approaches to this issue with common sense ideas win.
Now to complete the year, I am also hopeful Governor Brown will veto AB 2346 by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler and voters will defeat Prop 37. AB 2346 will drastically increase litigation in the agriculture industry by creating regulations that the agricultural community and its allies have proven are not possible to meet. And when they don’t meet these new regulations, the lawyers will be there to file a lawsuit.
Prop 37, on the ballot this November, requires foods containing ingredients from genetically modified plants or animals to be labeled. However, this bill is about lawsuits, not consumer education, and specifically authorizes “bounty hunter” lawsuits allowing anyone to sue any business even if they have no proof that a violation occurred. CALA knows from experience these types of enforcement provisions lead to abusive lawsuits that kill jobs and hurt small businesses
Next week, as we recognize Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, we will continue working to make 2012 a banner year for legal reform in California. We are on the right track and it is due to both political parties working together.