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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.

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