MICRA's Big Deception

Michael Newman authored an op-ed for the May 29th edition of the Daily Journal to speak out against what he believes is an initiative that will deceive California voters this coming November.  

Newman writes that the primary purpose of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act is to alter MICRA, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975. Currently, MICRA caps noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000.

The initiative slated for the November 2014 ballot, among other things, would seek to increase that limit to $1.1 million, which going forward will be adjusted to inflation.

Yet the official summary of the initiative, written by the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris, buries the MICRA reform provision.

The first three sentences of the summary describe provisions that would require drug testing for doctors. The fourth sentence refers to a provision that would require health care practitioners to consult a state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. A reader would need to get all the way to the fifth and final sentence to see that the initiative increases the cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits.

This bit of deceptive presentation appears to be a deliberate attempt to sneak the measure past voters. As reported in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, The battle between doctors and trial lawyers grows more infantile, one of the law's primary advocates described the drug testing provision as "the ultimate sweetener," admitting that when the proposal was put before focus groups, "the only thing that made them light up was drug testing of doctors."

Newman also objects to the initiative the ballot measure's potential illegality. The state constitution provides that an "initiative measure embracing more than one subject may not be submitted to the electors or have any effect."

As the state Supreme Court has explained, one of the purposes of single-subject requirement was "to minimize the risk of voter confusion and deception." The initiative certainly violates the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of this law.    

The fundamental changes contained in the initiative deserve an honest and open debate, with Californians clearly understanding what they are voting for or against. The proponents, as evidenced their packaging, appear to lack confidence that they would win such a debate on its merits. If they would invoke the initiative process, proponents should show respect, not contempt, for voters' intelligence.

TranscriptPad for iPad Offers Powerful Mobile Transcript Review

TranscriptPad is an elegant, fast and powerful transcript review app for the Apple iPad, designed specifically for the legal field, from the same folks who designed TrialPad, their flagship trial presentation and legal file management app. Similar software exists for your PC or Mac, such as the excellent Deposmart (from Clarity Legal), but TranscriptPad is the first dedicated transcript review and annotation app for the iPad. 

TranscriptPad accepts transcripts in .txt format, and exhibits in .pdf format. (Make sure you request the transcript in .txt format, as some court reporting agencies have their own proprietary format). The .txt format is a simple and relatively small file format that all court reporters can generate, and usually do so at no extra charge. Importing is a breeze, and can be done via email, Dropbox or even iTunes. I’ve uploaded multiple transcripts simultaneously, quickly and without any problems.

TranscriptPad

Transcripts are imported into case folders that you create and that are stored on your iPad. Opening a case folder reveals a deponent folder (created automatically upon import, with the deponent’s name and date of the deposition, along with the volume number). Multiple sessions of the same deponent are placed automatically in the deponent’s folder.

You can read a transcript hands-free by pressing the play button at the bottom of the screen, which allows you to adjust the speed. You can also flip back and forth as if you are reading a book (either in landscape or portrait orientation). 

Most attorneys like to annotate their transcript when reviewing, and here’s where the software really shows off. You can create your own “issue” codes to any part of the transcript. Issue codes can be assigned any name along with a choice of six colors, and appear in the margins of the transcript. You can also flag a portion of the transcript for later review. Issues codes, flags or any portion of the transcript can be emailed or exported to Dropbox. 

TranscriptPad contains a powerful search feature that allows you to search across any transcript or even multiple transcripts. Each hit is highlighted in the text, and you can create issue codes or flags from there, or email the section containing the search result. Detailed or summary reports of your issue codes, flags and searches are easily generated, and can be exported in .pdf or .txt format. 

TranscriptPad’s price tag is $49.99, which is pricey for an app, but on the other hand, this is robust and professional software. Similar software for the Mac or PC start at $200, and go much higher. For lawyers, paralegals, experts, in house counsel, and others who review and annotate transcripts, and who place a premium on mobility, TranscriptPad is a must. TranscriptPad can be found here (www.transcriptpad) and purchased in the Apple App store.

 

Technology and the Courtroom

When introducing technology into the courtroom, the trial lawyer needs to be master of that domain. This is not the time to experiment. Trial lawyers not comfortable with technology should seriously consider utilizing litigation-technology support services, who -- for a price -- can provide everything needed to make the presentation look and feel professional, freeing the lawyer up to concentrate on the case.

For those who doubt, Robyn Weisman's recent article in ALM’s Law Technology Review, Wrong Way: Preventing (and Recovering From) Courtroom Snafus, (free subscription) outlines what could happen when technology and people crash during trials, and how to recover from (and prevent) those disasters.

Ms. Weisman’s article provides sound advice for all lawyers utilizing technology in the courtroom. The inability to incorporate technology into your case, or the misuse (or abuse) of PowerPoint, can do more damage than good.

Fredric Lederer, chancellor professor of law and director of the Center for Legal and Court Technology and Legal Skills at William & Mary Law School, says there are three types of trial technology snafus: 1) real or perceived hardware failure, 2) real or perceived software failure, and 3) attorney ineptitude.

Hardware and software failures can be minimized, somewhat, by ensuring that your equipment is up-to-date, with the latest software installed. Back up your software on CD-rom or DVDs. Keep an extra laptop computer handy, preferably one that has a mirror image of your main computer, just in case. Make sure you have the proper cables, extension cords and adapters available. I would never venture into a trial without first paying a visit to the courtroom and getting to know the clerk and scouting out their equipment first, as they often insist that you use their equipment. 

Even for those who master technology, or who use professional services, Ms. Weisman wisely points out some of the pitfalls of using technology that have nothing to do with hardware or software failures. Technology can too easily run roughshod over the rules of evidence. An inadvertent keystroke or move of the mouse can display documents not yet admitted into evidence, or your PowerPoint presentation may obstruct, rather than elucidate your point.

But, for those lawyers who take technology as seriously as their arguments, it can make a world of difference in creating winning presentations.