STATE CIVIL COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
April 7, 2004
The meeting was called to order at 12:15 p.m. by co-chairs Kathleen Wilkinson, Robert Szostak and Gregg W. Mackuse.
Kathleen Wilkinson welcomed everyone to the meeting and briefly discussed the minutes from the prior meeting to ensure that all Committee Members were receiving the minutes when notified of the next meeting of the Committee.
II. Discovery Issues
Robert Szostak provided an update of the continuing effort by the Committee to address issues relating to Discovery Court. Specifically, Mr. Szostak noted that the National Committee for State Courts would have an Initial Report in the Spring for the Court of Common Pleas addressing discovery issues and would issue a Final Report in June.
Mark Tanner then provided an update on the work of the Discovery Subcommittee. As discussed by Mr. Tanner, the Discovery Subcommittee had identified initiatives and proposed recommendations and would circulate to the members of the Discovery Subcommittee items on which there was a consensus. The Discovery Subcommittee would also meet with members of the Court as well to discuss issues. At the next meeting of the State Civil Committee, there will be a discussion of the proposed initiatives of the Subcommittee.
III. Resolution on the Certificate of Merit
Robert Szostak reported that the resolution previously agreed to by the Committee concerning proposed changes to the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure in connection with Certificates of Merit had been presented to the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors passed the resolution which was then forwarded to Harold Don, Counsel to the Civil Procedural Rules Committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for consideration and possible enactment.
IV. Mediation and Proposed Medical Malpractice Reforms of Governor Rendell
Robert Szostak advised the Committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Courts focus on mediation in connection with medical malpractice actions as well as the recent proposed reforms of Governor Rendell, including a proposal concerning remittitur of awards. At the next meeting of the Committee, we will have several speakers to discuss the mediation program and discuss a possible resolution on the issue of remittitur.
V. State Civil Committee Survey
Kathleen Wilkinson then discussed the responses received to the 2004 Survey circulated by the co-chairs to the members of the Committee. As discussed by Ms. Wilkinson, the major issues raised were: (1) Discovery Court; (2) improved relations between the Bench and the Bar; and (3) support for the establishment of a Civil Litigation Section. Discovery Court issues are already being addressed by the Committee as well as continued efforts to address issues of importance to the Bar with the Court. The meeting then addressed a proposal to petition the Board of Governors to establish a Civil Litigation or Tort Litigation Section.
VI. Section Status
Chancellor Bevilacqua addressed the Committee to discuss the benefits of establishing a Section in which the Committee would join. In particular, the Chancellor identified the major value to practitioners in creating a Section: election of their own leadership; establishment of their own agenda; and their own budget. As explained by the Chancellor, such Sections have significant strength where they have been developed at both the ABA and the PBA yet the Philadelphia Bar Association does not yet have such a Section. Accordingly, the Chancellor expressed his belief that such a Section should be formed in the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Following the Chancellors remarks, there was a spirited and vigorous debate concerning the establishment of a Section. Some of the issues raised were:
- the benefits of having a guaranteed seat on the Board of Governors;
- the concern that the identity of the Committees was preserved even if a Section was established, including the ability to set an agenda and maintain autonomy;
- the benefits of having one section in order that the members of the Court could go to one place at one time to address issues; and
- ensuring that there were benefits and that any formal structure of the proposed Section be presented to the Committee for approval to address such issues as the leadership and composition of the Section.
Following the discussion, a consensus was reached (without objection following a vote) in favor of going to the Board of Governors with a Petition to have a Section formed. As agreed by members of the Committee, the Section would be called a Tort Litigation Section which State Civil would be a part of upon creation. Other Committees, in particular, Arbitration, Municipal Court and Medico-Legal, would also be asked to join the proposed Section.
Kathleen Wilkinson submitted a Petition for the Creation of a Section which will be submitted to the Board of Governors once the required number of signatures have been obtained. If the Board of Governors agrees to allow the formation of a Tort Litigation Section to proceed, bylaws will be prepared which will be submitted for approval of the State Civil Committee.
Thereafter, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 1:20 p.m.
The next meeting will be held Wednesday, May 5, at the usual location at the Bar Association.
Gregg W. Mackuse