SCOTUS Chief Justice Praises New Rules

In his annual state of the courts address, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts last week said that civil actions are sometimes “too expensive, time consuming, and contentious” and praised new rules aiming to streamline evidence discovery and encourage judges to help manage cases. That was among a spate of new rules approved Dec. 1 and going into effect this month.
One of the changes is that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has posted revised forms on its website that can be used by people seeking to represent themselves in federal civil cases. While the overall federal judges’ caseload is down a bit from last year, the chief justice called for more assistance and less expensive process.
See the NBC report on the judge’s annual comments here: New Rules Will Streamline Federal Cases: Chief Justice

Homeowners Silenced Over Mortgage Complaints

It seems that any frustration over mortgage disputes has an added twist: Shut up about the problem. Reuters is reporting that “… mortgage payment collectors at companies including Ocwen, Bank of America Corp and PNC Financial Services Group are agreeing to ease the terms of borrowers’ underwater mortgages, but they are increasingly demanding that homeowners promise not to insult them publicly, consumer lawyers say. In many cases, they are demanding that homeowners’ lawyers agree to the same terms. Sometimes, they even require borrowers to agree not to sue them again.”
Reuters says that lawyers make this point: if a collector, known as a servicer, makes an error, getting everything fixed can be a nightmare without litigation or public outcry. The news service also notes cites a 2013 report by the National Consumer Law Center that “… found that servicers routinely lost borrowers’ paperwork, inaccurately input information, failed to send important letters to the correct address—or sometimes just didn’t send them at all.”
Consumer advocates are outraged; law enforcement is starting investigations. Read about it here:

‘New Years’ Eve’ Weekend For Some Law Folks

With the “law year” ending on June 30, this weekend offers a two-for-one as many communities also hose Law Day events (it was Thursday). As they note in the Washington, D.C. Bar Association “… in the tradition ofLaw Day, each year the WBA and the WBALF hosts the Annual Law Day Dinner on the first Saturday of May. That event is a highlight of the legal calendar, drawing about 500 people to the formal dinner.

So be sure to, as they say, check your local listings.

California Tops Controversial Civil ‘Hellhole” List

Heralded by pro-business “tort reform” groups and blasted by left-leaning organizations, an annual “Judicial Hellholes” ranking is out today and California tops the list. The list has been compiled for the past decade as a project of the American Tort Reform Association, or ATRA, which campaigns on behalf of business interests; while widely known and frequently cited among the nation’s civil litigation community, it typically receives little mainstream media attention.
The tort-reform side of the argument is stated fairly well by Daniel Fisher at Forbes who writes: “News flash: Madison, County, Ill. is no longer the nation’s worst place for corporations to find themselves in court. California took top honors in the American Tort Reform’s annual “Judicial Hellholes” list, an unashamedly pro-defendant look at the nation’s judicial system. The Golden State won for the welcoming stance its courts take toward consumer class actions – particularly against food companies – and rampant lawsuits targeting small businesses over disability-access rules.” 
But the left-leaning Media Matters blog report dismisses the report, writing that it “… annually lists states that have court systems ATRA [the American Tort Reform Association] considers to be the most ‘unfair and unbalanced’ to defendants in the civil justice system, has been previously discredited for having no valid methodology and relying on unverified anecdotes drawn from press accounts. The Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School describes the ATRA’s members as being ‘largely Fortune 500 companies with a direct financial stake in restricting lawsuits.’ It is unsurprising, therefore, that the ‘Hellholes’ reports regularly feature jurisdictions that corporate defendants feel are not favorable to their interests. In fact, the report describes its methodology as largely based on vaguely described ‘feedback’ from ATRA members.”
The report gained coverage in the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, which we should note are considered much more conservative than the newspaper’s news sections. So it’s worth noting that the report is widely seen by business leaders and even critics acknowledge that, at minimum, it indicates what “largely Fortune 500 companies” think about the state.
You can see the entire report and much more, including a cool flaming gavel logo here.
Here’s a good argument totally debunking the study from Sergio Munoz at Media Matters.
The Forbes piece written by staffer Daniel Fisher that explains why the report matters is here.
Follow us on Twitter @CACourtsMonitor