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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

The facade of the U.S. Supreme Court

This week’s highlights

  • Bipartisan Supreme Court commission takes no position on terms limits or court expansion
  • The legal industry added 2,700 jobs in November
  • Bill to end PACER fees advances to the full senate 
  • Burnout “a real issue” as demand for legal word outpaces growth in headcount
  • Tort Reform organization places California top of its “judicial hellhole” list

Bipartisan Supreme Court commission takes no position on terms limits or court expansion

“By a vote of 34 to 0, the commission approved a 288-page report that offered a critical appraisal of arguments for and against… ideas for changes to the Supreme Court, including imposing 18-year term limits on justices and reducing their power to strike down acts of Congress. But the group did not offer specific recommendations.” (New York Times)

The bipartisan commission appointed by President Biden to explore possible changes to the federal judiciary unanimously approved its final report this week. 

The document backed continued live streaming of oral argument, an advisory code of conduct for the justices, and more transparency for the “shadow docket.” But the group took no position on highly-debated proposals to expand the court or impose term limits. 

The legal industry added 2,700 jobs in November

[The] steady increase in employment this year continued despite questions raised late in the month about the rise of the new omicron variant.” (Law360)

The U.S. legal services industry added 2,700 new jobs in November, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers continue the sector’s steady recovery since the initial shock of the pandemic in March 2020.

In total, the legal industry now employs 1.156 million people. That’s still 10,000 fewer than were working in legal at the sector’s peak employment in February 2020.

Bill to end PACER fees advances to the full senate 

“The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the Open Courts Act of 2021 to the full Senate for its consideration after adopting an amendment that provided for additional funding and addressed the judiciary’s concerns on technical issues.” (Reuters)

A panel of U.S. Senators has agreed, on a bipartisan vote, to advance a bill that would overhaul the federal judiciary’s PACER electronic record system and make the downloading of court documents free.

The U.S. Courts system generates approximately $142 million a year in PACER fees and sought assurances from the committee that any shortfall in funding would be made up for in additional funding. A similar bill has been introduced in the House but is yet to be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee.

Burnout is “a real issue” as demand for legal word outpaces growth in headcount

“‘In this strong demand growth environment, there are not enough lawyers to handle the rising tide of work, with total lawyer headcount growing just 0.7%,’ the report said. ‘Indeed, productivity was up 6.1% for the first nine months, making burnout a real issue for many firms where productivity was already high.'” (ABA Journal)

Law firms will easily be able to absorb higher expenses driven by a talent war because of strong predicted revenue growth. That’s according to the latest edition of the Citi Hildebrant Client Advisory, released Thursday. 

Average revenue growth for the first nine months of 2022 will be 14.7 percent higher for the same period this year, according to the report, available here, by Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group and Hildebrandt Consulting.

Tort Reform organization places California top of its “judicial hellhole” list

“The ATRF ‘recognized’ California this year because of the high volume of ‘frivolous’ actions brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the state’s ‘unique’ lemon law and Proposition 65 requirements” (Lexology)

The American Tort Reform Foundation has published its annual list of what it calls “Judicial Hellholes”—court systems that the organization deems to be overly plaintiff-friendly, permissive of novel lawsuits, and favorable toward “judicial tourism.”

The report cites evidence gathered by the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuses, which claims that frivolous lawsuits cost the state 200,000 jobs and a “tort tax” of $574 per California resident. Read the ATRF’s full report here.

Author

  • Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.