In politics, sometimes it’s all about judges and for California, Governor Brown is very cognizant of the issue. I really believe that the Governor’s legacy will not be tax reform, high speed rail or the infamous two tunnels in the delta – it is with his appointments to the California Supreme Court.
Now that Leondra Kruger is confirmed to the California Supreme Court and is now Associate Justice Kruger, she will be the fourth new justice on the seven-member bench since 2011, and Governor Brown’s third appointment to the court. All of the Governor’s appointees share his Yale background and are young. And from what I can tell they don’t have any background in business – which worries me because they may not recognize the lawsuit abuse they can create if they more create more incentives to file lawsuits.
So what does this mean? Well, take the recent announcement that Consumer Watchdog (front group for the trial lawyers) had filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court asking it to review the constitutionality of the state’s 39 year old damages cap of $250,000 in medical malpractice cases in Hughes v. Pham.
Hmmm…. four months ago the voters solidly rejected Proposition 46 by nearly 67% to 33%, which sought to increase the medical cap from $250,000 to roughly $1.1 million and index it to inflation moving forward.
The voters did not buy it and neither did the vast majority of the media in the state of California. But before the election was even certified, the trial lawyers were already loading up and heading to the Supreme Court, hoping that the Governor would make their chances of getting the cap thrown out just a little better with his recent appointment. This is not unprecedented – Florida’s Supreme Court just threw out their cap back in March.
Now that the makeup of the California Supreme Court is going to look a lot more favorable to their arguments, Consumer Watchdog and the trial lawyers are going all in on the CA Supremes. When the voters, legislature and nearly every editorial board turn their back on you, you turn your back on them.
The trial lawyers tried in the legislature to increase the cap and failed. They tried to get it increased through the initiative process and failed, spending millions in the process. What’s left? The state’s Supreme Court.
It will be interesting to see what happens. I will leave that for another blog post, but remember one thing: Ultimately the judges are the ones that will decide this. And Governor Brown knows it. That is his legacy.