Civil court closures will have lasting impact: Gerald Sauer’s article for The Daily Journal

by Gerald Sauer

COVID-19 has turned the world as we know it upside-down, but it has done quite a number on the civil court system. In its rush to close courts to protect public health, the California Judicial Council and the Los Angeles County courts have set civil litigants back to a point from which it will be difficult to recover.

Relegated to the back of the line behind “essential” matters such as criminal, delinquency, dependency, family and mental health matters, civil trials have effectively gone into la-la land. It could be years before people who have been injured see justice. Civil cases that would have been resolved in two years will now likely drag on for more than four years. The result will be not just ongoing financial hardship for people who have suffered real injuries and deserve to be restored to pre-injury economic status, but mental and emotional trauma that we’ll see playing out into the foreseeable future: higher levels of addiction, suicide, domestic violence and self-abuse.

Read full story on DailyJournal.com (subscription required)

COVID-19 data privacy could be a Pandora’s box

by Gerald Sauer

It has taken a global pandemic to finally move legislators in DC toward progress on consumer privacy issues. Despite an urgent need for a comprehensive legal framework to protect personal data, more than a year after it first began looking at a federal scheme, Congress has not managed to reach consensus on a framework such as the European Union’s GDPR or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Now, calls from public health experts to implement a system of contact tracing of individuals infected with COVID-19, and a seat-of-the-pants Senate proposal, have put data protection into hyperdrive.

We’re at a critical juncture, with the health crisis driving us toward a quick fix that could jeopardize the broader public interest. It’s the perfect moment for Congress to put differences aside and enact comprehensive federal data privacy laws, while also addressing the unique challenges of data collection during the coronavirus pandemic. A powerful cure is needed for the country’s data privacy disease, not simply an interim coronavirus relief patch that could, as explained below, open a Pandora’s box of problems.

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For Lawyers, Social Distancing Could Be the New Normal: Gerald Sauer’s article for Law.com

For legal professionals, this new virus has completely rewritten how business is done. Courthouses are closed, office buildings are empty and a lot of things that once were urgent have suddenly been put on indefinite hold.

by Gerald Sauer

The novel coronavirus pandemic is reshaping our world in ways large and small, from compulsive hand washing to take-out meals to home-schooling. As we’re all forced to shelter in place, we find ourselves connecting with others in ways we may not have known about (e.g., Zoom), and in ways we never truly appreciated (e.g., email, texting, messaging).

For legal professionals, this new virus has completely rewritten how business is done. Courthouses are closed, office buildings are empty and a lot of things that once were urgent have suddenly been put on indefinite hold. We no longer meet in person with clients, we’ve stopped going to court, and we can’t even enjoy collegial get-togethers to exchange business cards and referrals.

Read full story on Law.com [Subscription Required]

Michael Avenatti leaves the federal court in New York City.

Attorneys Should Relearn Rules of Civility: Gerald Sauer’s article for Bloomberg Law

Basic tenets of civility and decorum in the legal profession are being drowned out by a win-at-any-cost mentality, writes Gerald Sauer, founding partner at Sauer & Wagner LLP in Los Angeles. Legal rules, ethics standards, and principles of civility were established not for the purpose of being pushed and broken, but to ensure a system of fairness, he says.

by Gerald Sauer

Recently, a judge before whom I appeared told me that I had an “old-school sense of ethics.” Her comment took me by surprise, but upon further reflection I realized that she was right: I always wear a suit and tie to court; I stand up when I’m speaking to a judge, and I treat witnesses and opposing counsel with respect. I’m decidedly “old school.”

How sad. That I’m considered an outlier in my profession speaks to the pervasive degradation of the practice of law. In a society increasingly defined by the norms of reality TV, it seems to have become acceptable for lawyers to push buttons and break rules.

Read full story on Bloomberg Law

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