Issues & Overview Propelling Legal Reform

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - 00:00

Barry Bauman
Lawyers for Civil Justice

We are grateful to The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel for featuring in this issue the provocative topics discussed at the December New York City Meeting of the Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ). Attended by more than 100 corporate counsel and defense practitioners, the meeting brought to life through an array of distinguished speakers many of the important projects which are at the heart of the LCJ mission. I wish to share some of those highlights with you.

Junk Science

Improving the rules for admitting expert evidence in state courts is a central focus of LCJ. Participants included Lloyd Dixon, Senior Economist of the Rand Corporation Institute for Civil Justice, who informed us of important studies undertaken by Rand to examine the critical impact of junk science on the outcome of individual cases. Rand's in-depth research will investigate how decisions to admit or exclude similar types of evidence systematically vary by state - an analysis which is essential to providing insights into which types of standards and rules result in courts more accurately screening evidence for reliability. Lloyd's presentation was followed by that of Eli Lilly Associate General Counsel Curtis Oltmans and Altria Associate General Counsel William Ohlemeyer, both of whom gave their perspectives on the importance of eliminating junk science. Curtis shares his insights with the readers of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel in its March issue. At the LCJ program, defense bar leaders reported on the results of the recent nationwide LCJ survey of defense practitioners on expert evidence.

General Legal Reform

Phill Kline, the newly elected Attorney General of the State of Kansas and the chair of the Republican National Association of Attorneys General, passionately advocated general legal reform. Few government officials can equal Attorney General Kline's dedication to legal reform. He emphasized the importance of each American's accepting personal responsibility for his or her actions and clearly stated the dangers posed to industry as a result of an overzealous plaintiffs' bar that works in conjunction with the chief law enforcement officials of many states. His perspectives are featured in an interview with the editor in this issue's Special Report on Civil Justice Reform.

E-Discovery

The DRI-sponsored session on E-Discovery focused on how LCJ is encouraging the Federal Judicial Conference to enact clear guidelines to minimize the burdens and enormous costs associated with the discovery of electronic evidence. Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, who chairs the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules for the Federal Judicial Conference, provided attendees with a summary of the proposed revisions to evidentiary rules governing e-discovery which were recently circulated for public comment. She strongly encouraged the attendees to express their input at a series of hearings which are sponsored by the Judicial Conference. [Editor's Note: To learn more about the committee's call for public comment, visit www.metrocorpcounsel.com and type "Lee H. Rosenthal" in the search box.] Several corporate counsel, including Atiba Adams of Pfizer and Theodore Van Itallie of Johnson & Johnson, provided their own perspective of these issues. The LCJ E-Discovery Group has provided continuous input into the rulemaking process.

Protective Orders

As the national legal reform organization that has played a central role in preserving the discretion of judges to protect confidential information, LCJ has for years continued a multifaceted program to prevent disclosure of proprietary information which should remain strictly limited. Active proposals to restrict judges from sealing confidentiality agreements or issuing protective orders are currently pending in several states with the most threatening initiatives in Illinois and Connecticut. Tim Fisher, Chair of the Connecticut Task Force on Privacy and Protective Orders, provided a briefing on developments in Connecticut at the LCJ meeting.

Many of these programs and others are highlighted in this issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, and we hope that you will contact LCJ at bbauman@lfcj.com if we can provide you with any additional information on these subjects.