The Judicial Hellhole We Call Home

The American Tort Reform Association recently proclaimed California civil courts the #1 judicial hellhole in the country.  Read the story here:  http://www.atra.org/newsroom/california-replaces-reforming-philly-atop-judicial-hellholes-%C2%AE-list-joined-jurisdictions 

HR professionals and business owners will take note of the reference to "trolling" lawyers who file ADA access cases.  This is still a major problem in California even with the modest reforms made in 2013.  ATRA also made reference to class action lawsuits, although the organization did not reference the many class action employment cases.  They range from meal and rest period violations to suitable seating laws. 

To make matters worse, California modified Labor Code section 218.5.  It has allowed the prevailing party, including defendants, in cases alleging unpaid wages to obtain attorneys' fees.  Beginning in 2014, attorneys' fees are available to a defendant only if the plaintiff acted in bad faith.  This standard is such that it will be a rare case for a defendant to recover its fees.  Yet, the sword of attorneys' fees will continue to be wielded by plaintiffs' attorneys as a method of compelling a business to settle a wage case or face the risk of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees. 

To be sure, employment laws in California have gone much too far in the direction of employees.  Very good employers face risks in this state that they would not face elsewhere in this nation.  However, I will say that in my experience, many of the judges hearing our cases are very good judges.  They are competent, fair, open-minded and attempt to make their courtrooms meaningful places for the resolution of disputes.  So I wouldn't call the courts the hellhole.  But we definitely need more balance in the law.