Civil Justice Association of California hopes to thwart pre-litigation subpoena bill

By Glenn Minnis | Jul 20, 2017

SACRAMENTO — John Doherty, president of the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC), is appealing to lawmakers in hopes of thwarting a bill many feel will hamper local businesses by allowing city attorneys the power to subpoena before formally filing suit.

“It raises all sorts of issues about due process,” Doherty told the Northern California Record. “The governor (Democrat Jerry Brown) is a thoughtful person, and we will be making our case before him.”

Introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), AB-814 would grant such authority to city attorneys in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco. Mike Feuer, Los Angeles city attorney, has emerged as the primary sponsor of the bill.

“We’re concerned about the significant expansion of the government to be able to demand all sorts of information via requests for documents or subpoenas without regard for what civil or criminal codes may have been violated without review of issuance of demand,” Doherty said.

With super-majorities in both houses,  Democratic lawmakers in California have been a thorn in the side of President Donald J. Trump over the first several months of his administration, aggressively going out of their way to defy his lead on such issues like immigration.

But this time, Doherty hints that he's convinced all the partisanship has gone too far.

“The bill has no real limits,” Doherty said. “Small business owners could be required to produce years and years of documents and other businesses could be required to cover hundreds of hours of work and spend millions of dollars. This doesn’t limit the action to just the person under suspicion and can be issued to anyone involved. And once issued, you have the full weight of city attorney’s office demanding the documents.”

Currently, California attorney general and district attorneys already have the authority to issue such subpoenas. 

The bill remains in limbo before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The California Chamber of Commerce has joined CJAC and groups representing telecom, construction, broadcasting, manufacturers, banking and oil companies in opposition to it.

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Organizations in this Story

California State Assembly Civil Justice Association of California

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