The Lawyers for Civil Justice December 3-4 Membership Meeting in New York City offers an opportunity for LCJ's Corporate and Associate (law firm) members to address the most pertinent legal reform topics facing the American civil justice system today. One of the highlights will include a "General Counsel's Roundtable," where several of the nation's leading General Counsel engage our members on key legal issues facing their companies. This Roundtable, jointly sponsored by The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel , will highlight several key initiatives currently undertaken by LCJ. The following is a summary of our most recent efforts to bring about meaningful civil justice reform:
Judicial Compensation: LCJ strongly supports legislation which would increase the salaries of federal judges. Following presentations at the LCJ May 2007 meeting in Washington by Federal District Judge Brock Hornby, Time Warner General Counsel Paul Cappuccio, and Exxon Mobil Upstream General Counsel Ted Frois, LCJ was joined by the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel, DRI and the International Association of Defense Counsel in supporting action to encourage Congress to enact an increase in federal judicial pay.As part of an overall Congressional action plan, LCJ and these three defense organizations submitted a joint letter to Senate leaders. Soon after receiving this letter, Senators Reid, McConnell and Leahy were joined by Senators Hatch, Graham, and Feinstein in introducing bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing widening concerns of inadequate federal judicial compensation. The bill (S 1638) calls for an across-the-board 50% increase in current salary rates. Under the new legislation, District Court judges would receive a salary of $247,800, Appellate Court judges $262,700, Associate Justices $304,500, and the Chief Justice $318,200. LCJ and the defense organizations also submitted a joint letter to House leaders asking them to introduce legislation which would support the pay increase as well. Subsequently, Rep. Conyers introduced HR 3753. Both bills are strongly supported by LCJ as appropriate means to ensure just compensation for our judges.
E-Discovery: LCJ members are looking for opportunities to build on the recent success of the newly implemented Federal Rules. With the support of the Civil Justice Reform Group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, LCJ is now focusing on the crucial task of promoting e-discovery rule revisions in the states.
Delegations of LCJ members and allies have already submitted formal comments to rule makers in Maryland, Iowa, Alaska, and Virginia and are in the process of drafting Comments for Ohio and South Dakota. Furthermore, our large and active E-Discovery Committee monitors the activities of state rulemaking bodies in order to ensure that the defense perspective is reflected in new state rules. Currently, 9 states have enacted e-discovery provisions in their civil rules in wake of the Federal Amendments, and two additional states have pre-existing statutes. Meeting monthly via conference call, our Committee members keep our E-Discovery Committee co-chairs updated on progress in the states to which they have been assigned.
FRE 502 and the Attorney-Client Privilege: Recent activities involving Federal Rule of Evidence 502 has also garnered much attention from LCJ members. The success of these efforts was illustrated when the U.S. Judicial Conference approved a new version of Federal Rule 502 and recommended its adoption by Congress. LCJ helped spur this action by jointly submitting formal Comments to the Rules Committee, which augmented previous testimony by LCJ members and allies in favor of the new Rule 502 at the FRE 502 hearings in early 2007. The new Rule would provide for protections against waiver of the attorney-client privilege or work product immunity. It is designed to protect against the forfeiture of privilege where a disclosure in discovery is the result of an innocent mistake. It also allows parties and courts to protect against the consequences of waiver by permitting disclosures of privileged information between the parties to a litigation.
LCJ also showed strong support for the American Bar Association Task Force on Attorney Client Privilege's Resolution 111, which reemphasizes the need to preserve the attorney-client privilege to ensure the proper functioning of the judicial system. In this, LCJ joined other organizations in submitting formal written testimony to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on September 18. The testimony articulated the Coalition's support for "The Attorney-Client Protection Act of 2007" (S 186 and HR 3013), which prohibits government prosecutors from pressuring companies to waive their attorney-client privilege or work product protections, or to report their decision not to do so as a negative indication of their cooperation in an investigation. LCJ is working closely with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the ABA Task Force on the Attorney-Client Privilege, and others to ensure that a more favorable policy is adopted in the U.S. Department of Justice, and that the attorney-client privilege is preserved.
Other Activities: Other recent LCJ activities include expressing support of a wide range of new federal procedural rules before various Committees of the U.S. Judicial Conference, working to protect the privacy rights and proprietary information of corporate defendants, and encouraging greater public disclosure in the relationships between Attorneys General and the plaintiffs' attorneys. We are also successfully pursuing Expert Evidence reform initiatives in a number of states through our state-specific "action teams," which coordinate the efforts of LCJ Corporate and Associate members with local attorneys, legislators, judges, and business leaders. In this area, LCJ is pleased that a recent decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court embraced many of the suggestions of our Mississippi Action Team.
Overall, LCJ's corporate and defense counsel are using their network to support a wide range of legislative and procedural rules. LCJ will continue to pursue reform measures which will promote civil justice reform at the federal and state levels.
David E. Dukes is president of LCJ and a partner in Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough in Columbia, SC. Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ) is a national coalition of corporate and defense counsel supporting civil justice reform. For more information, contact LCJ Executive Director Barry Bauman at email@example.com.