Monday, September 10, 2001
State Bar Board of Delegates Urges Lawmakers to Raise MICRA Cap
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The State Bar Conference of Delegates Friday called on the Legislature to lift the cap on medical malpractice awards, dispensing with debate and a vote and instead adopting the recommendation of its resolutions panel.
Virtually every local bar association with a delegation to the conference supported the San Diego Bar Association’s call to replace the $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice actions that was adopted in 1976. Proponents have argued that the consumer price index has since more than tripled, meaning that the cap has effectively dropped precipitously in the last 25 years.
The resolution mirrored action by the conference in 1989, 1991, 1995, 1996, and 1999. It calls for an increase in the limit to $765,000, plus an inflation adjustment every two years in the future.
So pervasive was the support for the resolution that no delegation called it up for debate. The Resolutions Committee’s approval recommendation was deemed adopted without a floor vote.
Most of the expected debates at the 2001 conference were reserved for Saturday, when delegates were to consider a bid to modify the law that attorneys refrain from “all offensive personality,” and a report and resolution testing the still-uncertain relationship between the conference and the State Bar Board of Governors.
For decades an integral part of the State Bar, the conference was “spun off” as a related but distinct entity without State Bar financial support.
Conference Chair Laura Goldin opened the proceedings shortly after 2 p.m. Friday by reinstituing a tradition that was dropped after the State Bar dues bill was vetoed in 1997—calling the State Bar’s executive director to the podium for welcoming remarks.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be reinstating that tradition this year,” Goldin said.
Executive Director Judy Johnson called her return to the conference “ a symbol of the partnership the State Bar staff has with the Conference of Delegates, the sections, and the many members of the State Bar family.”
The resolution the conference was to consider Saturday calls on delegates—all of whom come from the regional and special interest bar associations around the state—to take note of the fact that the State Bar Board of Governors continues to have veto power over the conference’s legislative agenda. Proponents were seeking to end that power.
The Conference dispensed with many of the traditional opening ceremonies Friday and turned its attention to statutory changes that would affect the nuts and bolts of law practice.
A resolution from the Riverside County Bar Association to require trial judges to give lawyers notice and a chance to be heard when facing sanctions for breaking local rules passed easily.
A measure from the Bar Association of San Francisco that would call for all local federal court rules to be uniform was defeated on a close vote.
Delegates also approved a resolution calling on the Legislature to make an order denying a peremptory challenge to a trial judge appealable if a timely writ petition is filed and summarily denied.
Also approved was a measure to change references to “telegraph” in the statute governing notice to an agent for service of process, in favor of “facsimile or e-mail.”
Proponent Jo-Ann Grace, Metropolitan News-Enterprise co-publisher and member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association delegation, said that for anyone who still uses a telegraph, “we hope this does not tax your mental abilities and that you can run a fax machine.”
Dianna Gould-Saltman, also of the LACBA delegation, added:
“Need to join 21st century. Stop. Not using Morse code anymore. Stop.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company