Looking forward to the CAALA Gala award ceremony

And the nominees are…

Genie Harrison
2021 November

CAALA is an extraordinary organization of lawyers, legal staff, affiliate vendors, and CAALA staff – all of whom are committed to the growth and success of lawyers who represent injured and harmed human beings. The power of our collective energy and spirit is unparalleled. Though we have suffered through almost two years of a pandemic, court shutdowns and slowdowns, business retraction and restarts, broadside attacks by the State Bar to commodify the practice of law, and now, impending PAGA and fee cap initiatives, we remain resolute.

Better yet, we are triumphant, because the essence of what makes us warriors – our spirit and commitment to helping others – is undaunted. I see the fortitude, steadfastness, and resilience of our members and of this organization. We have much to celebrate, so let’s get to it.

Though I don’t yet know the winners of CAALA’s annual awards, I know the finalists, and I think we need to celebrate them.

Rising Star Award

CAALA’s Rising Star Award recognizes “… significant achievements of a CAALA member who has practiced law for less than 10 years.” Considerations include verdicts, arbitration awards, and settlements, hard-fought victories that overcame challenging obstacles, results that achieve justice for those who would not otherwise have had a voice or advocate, whether the individual represents the best ideals of CAALA, service to the organized trial bar, and the individual’s standing and reputation in the community. CAALA’s well-deserving 2021 Rising Star Award finalists are Mary Caruso, Mohamed Eldessouky, Teresa Johnson, Megan Klein, and Kelly Weil. We celebrate each of them because they have earned this recognition and truly do represent the best ideals of CAALA.

Trial Lawyer of the Year

CAALA’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes verdicts from August 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021, and includes consideration of the number of cases tried, the nature and complexity of each case, the dollar amount awarded, and the significance of each verdict. Other factors for consideration include the individual’s contributions to and involvement in the organized trial bar, any significant appellate decisions, their standing and reputation in the community, and the social and legal significance of the member’s contributions to the legal profession. CAALA’s well-deserving 2021 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award finalists are Daniel Benji, Eric Dubin, Daniel Kramer, Stephen McElroy, and Boris Treyzon. CAALA congratulates these outstanding TLOY finalists.

The CAALA Gala Jan. 15, 2022

The winners of the Rising Star Award and Trial Lawyer of the Year Award will be selected at CAALA’s October 21st meeting and celebrated at CAALA’s 2022 Installation & Awards Gala, January 15 at the LA Live JW Marriot. We will also celebrate the Trial Judge of the Year Award winner and, under 2022 President Doug Silverstein, will give special recognition to Los Angeles County Superior Court (LASC) staff who have worked so hard during the pandemic to ensure that the doors to justice are kept open. We hope that you join us in celebrating those behind-the-scene heroes who work hard to keep courts open and cases moving.

Speaking of the Court and CAALA, I’m thrilled to report on the success of Resolve Law Los Angeles (RLLA), CAALA’s free virtual Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) for LASC PI Hub cases. RLLA MSCs are staffed by volunteers from CAALA, ASCDC, ABOTA, and Beverly Hills Bar Association. As of October 11, 2021, RLLA volunteers have conducted 138 MSCs, of which 59% have either settled or are in continued negotiations. The success of this program is due to the generosity and expertise of the volunteer MSC Settlement Officers. Please volunteer as a Settlement Officer if you have at least 10 years’ experience in litigation – it’s a convenient, effective way to give back to the legal community and reduce the backlog of cases in the PI Hub.

When we built the RLLA PI Hub virtual MSC system, I intended that we would eventually expand the program to service employment cases in LASC’s Independent Calendar courts. It is my goal to have the RLLA system for employment cases up and running before the end of this year.

Make your voice heard on legal paraprofessionals

The State Bar’s efforts to create a new licensure for paraprofessionals is in its final stages. The public, which means you and everyone you know, has until January 10, 2022, to make public comment against the paraprofessional program. The State Bar’s Sandbox Committee, the so-called Closing the Justice Gap Working Group, remains hard at work each week seeking to allow corporations to practice law. As always, CAALA fights against the State Bar’s ill-conceived efforts each week. For further information, please see my article on this subject in this issue.

Initiatives expected on the November 2022 ballot

The good news is that the Fairness for Injured Patients Act (FIPA) will be on the ballot. This measure seeks to reverse MICRA by, among other things, adjusting the cap for inflation and allowing noneconomic damages awards in excess of the cap in catastrophic injury cases. If it passes, FIPA would be a major advancement toward some fairness for patients injured by medical negligence. www.fairnessact.org.

There are also a number of anti-consumer initiatives that have been filed and are proceeding through the initiative process. An anti-Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) initiative, ironically and deceptively named The Californians for Fair Pay and Accountability Act of 2022, seeks to replace PAGA with a process that allows workers to recover penalties through the Labor Commissioner only.

There are also three separate contingency fee-cap initiatives that were filed with the Governor’s office. These initiatives seek to cap statutory attorney’s fees and contingency fees at no more than 20% of any recovery. Consumer Attorneys of California and CAALA are already hard at work fighting against these existential threats.

Though great threats continue to challenge us, we will persevere – together!

Genie Harrison Genie Harrison

Genie Harrison is the principal of the Genie Harrison Law Firm, where she focuses on plaintiff’s employment, civil rights and wage and hour matters. Ms. Harrison is one of only two women in the state of California named by the Daily Journal as a Top Labor & Employment Lawyer for five years in a row. She has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America for Plaintiff’s Employment Litigation and been named by the Daily Journal as one of the Top 100 and Top 75 Women Litigators in California. In 2014 she was elected as a Fellow of the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers. In 2013 Ms. Harrison received CAALA’s Presidential Award.

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