2018 Platform: Civil Justice

California Democrats support a strong and accessible civil justice system to defend public health, safety, and the environment, and to vindicate the rights of consumers, injured persons, employees, and all of our citizens equally.  The Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury in civil cases was intended by the Framers to put a check on the potential abuse of power by the government and place control in the hands of “the common people.”


In recent years, our civil justice system has come under concerted attack by corporations shielding themselves from civil liability for wrongful conduct by using their money and power to deny everyday people fair access to the courts.  The attack on Seventh Amendment rights has come under the false and misleading cloak of “tort reform.”


To reverse these attacks on the rights of our citizens to seek full and fair justice through the courts, California Democrats will:

  • Oppose forced arbitration and support passage of the Arbitration Fairness Act that provides that “no predispute arbitration agreement shall be valid or enforceable if it requires arbitration of an employment dispute, consumer dispute, or civil rights dispute;”
  • Advocate for the end of employment agreements that contain forced arbitration clauses and condition a worker’s employment and fair protection on signing such agreements;
  • Support of the right of the people to join together in class actions and condemn the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion and American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant that gave corporations the right to prohibit class actions against them by consumers and employees and force such individuals to arbitrate all claims;
  • Trust juries to determine the appropriate level of compensation for a prevailing plaintiff in a lawsuit, oppose any arbitrary limits on damages that a jury may award, and support review of the impact on raising current limits on pain and suffering damages on victims and providers in medical malpractice; and,
  • Seek to end the use of confidentiality clauses in settlements involving matters of public health and safety.

‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ is the reality that California’s civic justice system will continually face without budget reforms and state budget reprioritization.  Budget cuts to California’s Judicial Branch means extended waits for civil lawsuits and legal issues that touch everyday lives – divorces, child custody hearings, conservatorships, probate, traffic hearings, and small claims – in extreme examples from several months to several years.  Multilingual legal assistance for people who represent themselves as well as for family law centers which provide assistance in divorce, child custody, child support, and domestic violence cases have been cut, effectively eliminating access to the courts for immigrant communities.


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