WASHINGTON – The American Tort Reform Association (ATRF) earlier last week released its annual Judicial Hellholes report with the state of California placing as the second-worst legal climate in the nation following the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Since 2002, the ATRF Judicial Hellholes program has “identified and documented places where judges in civil cases systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” according to the report.
California dropped to number two after placing atop the list a year ago. The state has for years struggled with a litigious climate driven, and its poor ranking comes as no surprise to business and legal experts.
“It is no surprise that California continues to be ranked among the worst Judicial Hellholes in the nation,” said Kyla Christoffersen Powell, president and CEO of the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC). “Litigation-enabling laws such as Proposition 65 and the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) have allowed predatory attorneys to shakedown businesses with expensive lawsuits that garner huge legal fees. We need meaningful reforms to get California’s legal climate moving in a positive direction.”
Proposition 65 requires some products to have a consumer warning label that includes more than 1,000 listed chemicals deemed carcinogenic. What was initially introduced in 1986 to protect citizens has turned into a logistics nightmare in keeping the database of toxins update, and leading to an overwhelming amount of injury litigation.
PAGA, or what the ATRF’s report refers to as the “Sue Your Boss Law,” authorizes employees that are allegedly subject to illegal labor code violations to act as private attorneys general to recover civil penalties from their employers for violations of the labor code.
Employers throughout the state are currently fighting to reform the law, led by a recent lawsuit by the California Business & Industrial Alliance (CABIA) against the state over allegations of a lack of governmental oversight of PAGA litigation.
“The current construction of PAGA by California courts [which have their own constitutional infirmities] gives rise to the following unconstitutional framework: valid and binding arbitration agreements are rendered unenforceable; private contingency-fee attorneys are permitted to litigate on behalf of the state without oversight or coordination with any state official; private attorneys are allowed to negotiate settlements that enrich themselves at the expense of everyone but themselves,” the report quotes from CABIA’s suit.