Sunday, April 21, 2013

Many Victories, One Well-Publicized Defeat for CCBA in Legislative Committees

The past two week have been extremely busy for the Conference of California Bar Association's 2013 Legislative Program, with several successes and one high-profile defeat.

Assemblymember Wagner
The defeat came in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 9, where the court reporters and organized labor beat back a CCBA proposal (AB 251 by Assemblymember Don Wagner) to permit electronic recording in family law cases if (and only if) an official court reporter was not available. The bill, which is based on CCBA Resolution 07-03-2012 developed by Bar Association of San Francisco delegate Michelene Insalaco, responds to the alarming fact that cutbacks in court funding over recent years have resulted no court reporters being provided in family law proceedings, meaning that no record is being made of the proceedings, meaning nothing on which to base an appeal.

Michelene Insalaco
Thanks largely to the efforts of Insalaco and San Diego certified family law specialist Michele Brown Graser, AB 251 was strongly supported by a statewide network of family law attorneys, legal services organizations and judicial officers who had actual experience in using electronic recording (including former Contra Costa Country Probate Commissioner and CCBA delegate Don E. Green).  Although the strong and diverse base of support wasn't sufficient to overcome the powerful historic court reporter/labor connection, it did highlight (including press coverage) significant access to justice issues and, for that reason, and has set the stage for further dialogue as to how to protect the interests of the great mass of (often self-represented) family law litigants.

AB 251 did receive unanimous reconsideration following its defeat in the Judiciary Committee, so it can be considered again in January 2014, possibly in amended form.  And, ironically, the Judiciary Committee hearing at which AB 251 was heard was one of the few hearings the Assembly elected not to record electronically.

Ciarán O'Sullivan
The same Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing also saw two CCBA successes, however.  First, the committee  unanimously approved another Wagner bill, AB 1160, which seeks to protect probate estates from having resources drained by self-interested personal representatives by restoring the requirement that they receive prior court approval before they can join in an heirship determination proceeding at estate expense. The proposal is the legislative embodiment of CCBA resolution 01-04-2011 developed by Bar Association of San Francisco delegate Ciarán O'Sullivan.

Lilys McCoy
The committee also approved on the Consent Calendar AB 1183 by Assemblymember Brian Jones, which improves discovery law by clarifying that verified responses are required to start the clock running on the time in which to file a motion to compel further response.  The bill is based on three CCBA resolutions (02-06-2011, 02-08-2011 and 02-09-2011) developed by San Diego County Bar Association Delegate and former CCBA Chair Lilys McCoy.

Darin Wessel
The following week saw more committee action on CCBA-sponsored proposals.  On Tuesday, April 16, the Assembly Judiciary Committee gave unanimous approval to AB 788 by Assemblymember Don Wagner - but only after the bill was substantially amended to render it effectively a vehicle to continue moving through the legislative process.  The bill, based on CCBA Resolution 01-06-2012 developed by San Diego County Bar Association Delegate Darin Wessel, seeks to clarify the circumstances under which purchasers of official deposition and trial transcripts can make copies for litigation-related purposes without being required to purchase another official copy from the court reporter who transcribed the original. (Not surprisingly, the hearing on this bill also wasn't recorded.)

Get Adobe Flash playerAnd finally, the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, April 17, gave unanimous approval to SB 669 by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, which would enable California to join a growing group of states that provide training in the proper use and administration of epinephrine auto-injectors, and which make these auto-injectors available by prescription to individuals who have successfully completed the training.  The bill, which now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee, is based on CCBA Resolution 08-05-2012 developed by Los Angeles County Bar Association delegate Joel Douglas. See video clip of hearing to right.

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