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General District Court Increase


     I’m not sure if this qualifies as something that I feel tremendously strong about. However this blog deals with legislation that has just been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly involving the Court “not of record”.

     Two similar bills  introduced in the Virginia House and Senate, would increase the amount that could be sought, through suit, in General District Court (GDC) . Currently, you can sue for up to 15K, with the benefit of less expense in filing. Plus, you don’t have to bring a doctor to testify. You can introduce an affidavit regarding the medical treatment and bills, as an exception to the hearsay rule; specifically to encourage suits in General District Court instead of Circuit Court

     Both bills proceeding through both sides of the legislature, would increase the allowable amount sued for, to an amount of 25K.  A reporter, writng on this legislation  for the “Virginia Lawyers Weekly” , called last week, for my opinion on the possible increase in the lower court. I have attached the reporter’s article for your review.

     You will see that most lawyers are in favor of the legislation.  On its surface, it appears to get smaller case to court quicker. However, I am in the minority on the excitement for this increase in jurisdictional amount.  Here’s where the article references my quote-

Not every plaintiff’s lawyer finds fertile ground in general district court . Richmond’s Joel D. Bieber said lawyers from his personal injury firm encountered district judges who questioned chiropractic treatment, and he said he generally gets better results with juries.”

     I am all for any legislation that will move trial dockets and clear more access to the court system. Right now, it takes about a 1-2 years to get to trial in most Circuit Courts.

     Unfortunately, my experience is that most General District Court Judges already have crowded trial dockets. Plus, there is no funding for additional judges; so we are only adding to already crowded dockets.

     A better solution is to work on the core problem. Introduce bills that make mediation mandatory; where the loser has to pay the costs; and where more funding is given to get more judges appointed.

     Otherwise, you might have some GDC  Judges who just don’t have the time to listen to the evidence, as a jury might. These Courts already hear criminal, collection, landlord/tenant  and all types of civil cases.

     The general reference in the Lawyers Weekly quote, about chiropractic treatment, came from a Judge who simply said, “I don’t believe in chiropractic treatment. If you don’t like that, then appeal my ruling”.

     We did appeal and the jury thought differently than that Judge. Unfortunately, the revelation came over a year later. Quick Court access doesn’t  necessarily mean that it’s legislation that will really help our clients.

A Legal Reporter’s Point of View

Last week,  I was contacted by a reporter for the Dolan Media Services. They publish Lawyers Weekly versions for different states. I was interviewed under the context of North Carolina Lawyers and the resistance that they receive in handling South Carolina cases. Since I am personally licensed in Virginia and South Carolina and have offices there, my licensing is contiguous to those with concerns in NC.

In our practice, we have lawyers licensed in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition, we have cases pending in other states that result from our Pharmaceutical litigation. In those instances, when we are not already licensed in those states, we have to "waive in" by order of a Judge.

South Carolina has certain limitations on waiving in under "pro hac vice" and North Carolina lawyers feel restricted in not being able to have reciprocity. South Carolina is one of 10 states that does not allow reciprocity: lawyers from another state waiving in to practice without taking a SC bar exam. Unlike a medical license that allows doctors to practice medicine in different states with little limitation, this limitation on lawyers' practice causes restrictions across state lines.

 I was surprised to learn that the reporter did two different articles. One for the North Carolina Lawyers Weekly and the other for South Carolina Lawyers Weekly. I will attach the articles at the bottom, which include my quotes from the reporter's interview. More fascinating to me is that the reporter took the same subject matter and wrote from a different perspective.

The South Carolina article is titled "A Single Legal Market State Line might be blurry in some clients' eyes, but S.C. lawyers say distinction is crucial"

The North Carolina Article is titled, "Borders fading between North Carolina and South Carolina, but barriers to practice remain formidable"

The articles give dirffering viewpoints, depending on where you practice.  I'm interested in your reaction to my quotes. Here are the articles:

NC link: Read the Article HERE  

SC link: Read the Article HERE



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