STATE CIVIL COMMITTEE MEETING MINUTES
March 3, 2004
The meeting was called to order at 12:15 p.m. by co-chairs Kathleen Wilkinson, Robert Szostak and Gregg W. Mackuse.
II. Report of Discovery Subcommittee
Mark Tanner provided the members of the Committee with a report of the initial meeting of the Discovery Subcommittee formed to help propose solutions to issues for Discovery Court. The initial meeting was held on Feb. 4 in Judge Mosss courtroom and was well-attended by a cross-section of the bar and many of the members of the Court who are Team Leaders for civil cases.
The Subcommittee discussed two of the main problems at Discovery Court: (1) the amount of time spent in Discovery Court; and (2) the small amount of time the Court has to address complex, substantive issues given the volume of discovery disputes. The Subcommittee also addressed one potential solution raised concerning a possible rule change to place the burden on the party opposing the discovery motion to affirmatively state that the matter would be contested.
Mr. Tanner further reported that at the initial meeting it was decided that several members of the Subcommittee would participate in a focus group of the National Committee for State Courts which assists the Court in discussing issues and potential solutions. The focus group is to have a meeting on March 5.
Finally, Kathleen Wilkinson discussed the current system of two (2) lists in Discovery Court and noted that many members of the bar had called to express gratitude to the co-chairs for the new system. Judge Moss also noted the progress being made in implementing the new system but stressed the need for counsel to be careful in identifying the correct list on which their matter appears for disposition.
III. Civil Litigation Section
Ronald Kovler then spoke about the proposed Civil Litigation Section, including the task force charged with determining the desirability and feasibility of such a section. At the present time, it is contemplated that the State Civil Committee, the Compulsory Arbitration Committee, the Medical-Legal Committee and the Municipal Courts Committee would be part of the proposed new section. As any new section would require changes in the by-laws, Mr. Kovler noted that efforts were being made to expedite the issue in order to bring the matter before the Association as soon as possible. Robert Szostak advised the members of the committee that a letter will be sent to all members concerning the civil litigation section in order that the matter could be discussed at the next meeting.
IV. Proposed Resolution Re: Rule on Certificate of Merit
Robert Szostak then discussed a proposed resolution seeking to change Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.6 concerning certificates of merit in professional liability actions to address the situation of judgments being entered without notice and without any means to open any judgment entered for failing to comply with Rule 1042.6. As discussed, the proposed change is to provide a 10-day notice provision (similar to that for default judgments) and a procedure to move to open any judgment as well.
Members of the Medical-Legal Committee also attended the meeting to express their support of the proposed resolution. After discussion, it was decided that, in general, the Committee supported a resolution suggesting the proposed rule changes. Accordingly, a proposed resolution will be prepared and submitted to the Board of Governors for consideration.
V. Guest Speaker
Gregg Mackuse then introduced the Guest Speaker, Harold Don. Mr. Don provided an overview of the work of the Civil Procedural Rules Committee, including, among other things, information and purpose, as well as the historical and current membership of the Committee. Mr. Don also discussed in detail the website providing information about the Committee, where anyone can access proposed and upcoming rule changes. The Committees information can be accessed through the Web site for Pennsylvanias Unified Judicial System.
Mr. Don also discussed at length the sources of proposed rule changes, in particular: the Supreme Court; legislation; case law; members of the Committee; and any suggestions received from the bench and the bar. Mr. Don then discussed the process by which the Committee ultimately prepared a recommendation concerning a proposed rule change. Specifically, after the Committee receives a suggestion, the next step is to research and draft a proposed rule change. The draft is submitted to the Committee (which meets four times a year) for consideration. Once the Committee agrees on a recommendation, the recommendation is published in a variety of forums (including the Committees Web site and the Pennsylvania Bulletin) for comment. After all comments are received and considered, ultimately, the proposed rule is submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for disposition. Finally, Mr. Don discussed the most recent rule changes which are to take effect this year, including those relating to motion practice and equity practice. Following Mr. Dons remarks, and discussion of some of the topics of Mr. Dons presentation, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 1:30 p.m.
VI. Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 7, at the usual location at the Bar Association.
Gregg W. Mackuse