2018 Year in Review

A year that feels like a decade of change, awareness, shock and disbelief

Geraldine Ly
2018 December

The joke around my household is that every day feels like a week since I am able to cram (accomplish?) so much into one day. I feel the same about 2018, which feels like a decade of change, awareness, shock, and disbelief into one short year.

#MeToo, #TimesUp

The #MeToo movement began more than 10 years ago when activist Tarana Burke created the campaign in 2007 as a way to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities. In late 2017 and predominantly in 2018, the sexual assault movement took center stage as women spoke out publicly against abusers and demanded justice.

Nationally, arising from the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, #TimesUp legal defense fund (administered by the National Women’s Law Center) was created to support lower-income women seeking justice for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and to advocate for legislation to punish companies that tolerate persistent harassment.

California led the charge with passage of SB 820 by Senator Connie Leyva, which prohibits confidentiality provisions in sexual harassment and sexual assault cases (secret settlements). Sponsored by CAOC and the California Women’s Law Center, SB 820 will permit claimants to request that their name be kept confidential, but the underlying harassment and assault, facts, such as those against Harvey Weinstein, will no longer be kept secret.

Internet privacy

The Equifax data breach exposed more of consumers’ personal information than the company first disclosed last year, according to documents given to lawmakers. California legislators, consumer attorneys, and CAOC fought for legislation to protect consumers from data breaches by enacting the nation’s most sweeping data privacy and protection measures. Among other data privacy protections, the bill signed by Governor Brown allows consumers to insist that companies not sell their personal information and requires parents to give their approval before a company sells data about a minor, among other protections. To act as a deterrent against data breaches, companies would face civil legal liability and potential action by the state Attorney General if they failed to take adequate and available steps to protect consumer data from internet pirates.

Build the wall and sanctuary cities

A 14-mile section of President Trump’s border wall is under construction in San Diego, at a cost of $147 million. The San Diego wall will reach up to 30 feet high, topped with a sheer vertical “anti-climbing plate.” It will replace a long stretch of 8-to-10-foot-high metal fencing that was built in the 1990s out of scrap metal and repurposed steel plates.

California, one of seven sanctuary states, threatens President Trump’s anti-immigration policies. He tweeted, “California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk. Thousands of dangerous & violent criminal aliens are released as a result of sanctuary policies, set free to prey on innocent Americans. THIS MUST STOP!”

In March, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California over three immigration-related laws. However, a federal judge denied the Trump administration’s request for a preliminary injunction, marking a major defeat to the administration’s war on sanctuary states. The battle will likely land in the Supreme Court.

Several cities in California have opted out of sanctuary-city status, have joined in the federal lawsuit filed by AG Sessions, or have sued the state of California claiming that the sanctuary law interferes with its authority to enforce local laws and regulations. Cities retaining their sanctuary status include Los Angeles and Santa Ana.

Wildfires and PGE

A report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection links electric power and distribution lines with 11 fires that killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes and structures. State investigators have determined that Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) equipment was responsible for some of the most destructive fires and the company will face $15 billion or more in liability. In the aftermath, PG&E made a concerted push in the statehouse and media to pass legislation stripping California utilities of their legal responsibilities to homeowners and public entities harmed by their conduct.

Senate Bill 901 allows the state’s investor-owned utilities to issue cost-recovery bonds, to be repaid by charges on customers’ electric bills, with the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission. Proponents argued it was a way to keep PG&E and other utilities solvent at a time when wildfires are larger, more intense and more costly than in prior years. Critics called it a giveaway to utilities that, through their own negligence, allowed power lines to ignite trees and brush that are tinder-dry from years of drought. The CPUC will now have jurisdiction to address when cost recovery could be passed through to rate payers, develop wildfire mitigation plans, and implement forestry management practices.

Voters and mid-term

As a result of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, countless rallies, school walkouts and demonstrations have occurred across America against gun violence, led largely by students. Gun violence isn’t the only topic that has been touched upon – women’s rights, LGBT rights, environmentalism, and racial rights have all seen support from youth. Taylor Swift, with her 112 million followers, tweeted to encourage predominantly young people to register and vote in the mid-term election, which caused an immediate spike of 65,000 new registrations in the 24-hour period following her post. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla says a record 19 million Californians have registered to vote, an increase of nearly 1.5 million from the 2014 mid-term election. As of Sept. 7, nearly 76 percent of all eligible voters had signed up to vote. 

As seen by election results throughout the state and the nation on November 6, “the tribe has spoken.” The House of Representatives has flipped from red to blue while the Senate stayed red, and California has voted for Democratic governors back-to-back. Seats held for decades by the same politician have been successfully challenged, many by women. It appears that we are all looking for some change in what has transpired in the last couple of years.

Thank you for allowing me a voice in Advocate. As a commitment to my clients, my practice, my colleagues, and the judiciary, I will continue to fight to support changes that promote civil justice and encourage all of you to be involved in your local trial lawyers associations, the Consumer Attorneys of California, and to support political candidates and legislation that advance civil justice and consumer protection.

Geraldine Ly Geraldine Ly

Geraldine Ly, the new president of OCTLA, practices at the Law Offices of Geraldine Ly in Santa Ana.  Her practice emphasizes workers’ compensation and personal injury law. She frequently handles cases that have an overlap between workers’ comp and personal injury law.

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