Welcome to the weekly roundup of the latest news from the courts and the legal industry. Each week, we bring you a quick summary of significant developments, new trends, and interesting articles.
This week’s highlights
- President Biden orders DOJ to make plan to improve legal aid
- Legal malpractice claims reach unprecedented levels, insurance brokers report
- California proposes boosting court spending by $380 million
- Law firm hiring “skyrocketing” says new report
- Supreme Court: Ban on non-unanimous verdicts for serious crimes not retroactive
President Biden orders DOJ to make plan to improve legal aid
“A memo from Biden directs U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to develop a plan within two months to improve access to legal aid. The White House said Garland would issue his own memo launching the effort immediately.” (New York Times)
President Biden took executive action Tuesday to boost access to legal services for low-income Americans after government-led initiatives went largely dormant under the Trump administration.
“The federal government has a critical role to play in expanding access to the nation’s legal system and supporting the work of civil legal aid providers and public defenders,” the White House said in a fact sheet detailing the memorandum.
Biden also took steps to reconstitute a task force in the White House to discuss expansion of legal aid for low-income people and minority groups.
Legal malpractice payouts reach unprecedented levels, insurance broker reports
“Although payouts surged, the number of claims stayed the same or decreased for nine of the 11 insurers… The largest number of claims stem from three practice areas: trusts and estates, business transactions, and corporate securities.” (ABA Journal)
Last year was the worst ever year on record for legal malpractice claim payouts, according to a new survey by a leading insurance broker.
Ames and Gough surveyed 11 insurers and found that nine of the 11 had paid out claims greater than $50 million, and four had paid out claims in excess of $300 million in the last year. Altogether, the survey found the number of claims resulting in larger multi-million dollar payouts actually stayed the same or decreased year-over-year for nine of the 11 insurers.
California proposes boosting court spending by $380 million
“The Governor’s budget proposal includes millions of dollars of new funding for the courts to help them deal with case backlogs and operational setbacks triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.” (The Recorder)
California’s courts could receive a significant funding boost under plans published by Governor Gavin Newsom. In addition to funding for deferred building maintenance, the plan also includes more than $100 million to deal with the “significant increase in workload for the trial courts beginning in 2020-21.”
State officials anticipate a surge of eviction cases when the current moratorium expires at the end of June. They are also planning for an increase in small claims filings coming on top of existing large backlogs.
Law firm hiring “skyrocketing” says new report
“Highlighting the rebound in hiring for lawyers following the pandemic’s initial shocks, new data shows a dramatic increase in available jobs for lawyers looking to join a law firm.” (Reuters)
There were more than 8,000 jobs listed for lawyers and support staff at all levels as of May 14, representing a 150% increase from the start of the pandemic, according to figures released Wednesday by market data provider Leopard Solutions.
The numbers indicate a booming legal services industry. Leopard Solutions report that the job listing numbers have surpassed pre-pandemic numbers. Between 2017 and 2019, there was an average of 6,000 to 6,500 legal jobs open at any one time, the company said.
Supreme Court: Ban on non-unanimous verdicts for serious crimes not retroactive
“The decision means that hundreds of people who were found guilty by non-unanimous juries before Ramos will not get to seek to have their convictions overturned.” (SCOTUSblog)
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries before the high court banned the practice last year do not need to be retried.
In a 6-3 ruling along conservative-liberal lines, the justices ruled that the court’s “well-settled retroactivity doctrine” applies. The decision affects prisoners who were convicted in Louisiana, Oregon, and Puerto Rico, the few places that had allowed criminal convictions based on divided jury votes.