There Oughta Be a Law

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Jay Chafetz, 2013 CCCBA Board President

Jay Chafetz, 2013 CCCBA Board President

How many times have you read a statute, scratched your head and said, “What? What does that mean?” or said, “It can’t mean that, it just can’t!” How many times have you looked for a statute, assuming there had to be one on a particular point, and discovered that there was none and that there was an obvious gap in the law?

Unlike much of politics, where one feels one cannot make much of a difference, here, individuals can and do make a difference.

The Conference of California Bar Associations exists for the purpose of making just such changes to the law: Correcting ambiguities, changing the nonsensical and creating whole new laws.

The process looks like this: Anyone—and yes, this means you, you are “anyone”—may propose a change or addition to the law by drafting a proposed law change in a pre-set format. Your legislative proposal must be submitted no later than March 3, 2014, in order to be considered at the 2014 meeting of the Conference of California Bar Associations on September 12-14, 2014.

There, it will be studied, dissected and debated at length by attorneys from all over the state. If it receives the approval of a majority of the attorneys participating in the Conference of California Bar Associations, it will then be sent to the Conference’s paid lobbyist in Sacramento to see if he can find a legislator to sponsor it as a bill in the California Legislature.

If you are so inclined, you may also become a member of the CCCBA’s delegation to the Conference of California Bar Associations. Currently, 11 members of the Contra Costa County Bar Association serve on this delegation and make the yearly journey to the conference for a break from their normal practices, to debate laws for a weekend and make new friends from around the state.

CCCBA and its members have been successful in recent years in effecting a number of legislative changes. It can be exciting to feel that you are a part of the process of making a law or to be known as its author. (Hopefully gaining fame instead of infamy!)

Some years ago, I proposed a change regarding the deadline and order of submission of opposition papers and evidence on motions for summary judgment. While my proposal got changed along the way, ultimately, I believe it did prompt a change in the Rules of Court to correct the problem I had identified.

A year or two ago, retired Commissioner Don Green proposed a change in the law to overturn a California Court of Appeal decision that had given primary rights in a joint bank account to the first person who ran to the bank and withdrew the money. His change was eventually put into law.

My successor come January, President-elect Stephen Steinberg, proposed a new law last year to extend the attorney-client privilege to communications between a potential client and a lawyer referral service, like our own Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). Steve traveled to Sacramento to testify in favor of his proposal and it, too, was enacted into law.

If you want to propose a law or go further and become a member of the Conference of California Bar Associations, contact Steve Steinberg at ssteinberg@vbllaw.com.

So the next the time that you contemplate some oddity or injustice in the rules that govern a case or dispute, don’t just say, “There oughta be a law!” Make one.

Filed Under: President's Message

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