Messages from the President

 

July 31, 2020

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

We certainly live in difficult times.  Covid-19 has reshaped everything about us.  Our courts are, for all practical purposes, closed.  We will see no jury trials anytime this year, at least not here in Northern California.  Our social interaction is strangely altered, and our professional work is for the most part, remote.  Zoom depositions have become the norm.  (I didn’t even know what Zoom was before the pandemic, and yet now I spend hours on it each day). 

Just today, many states saw more Covid-19 cases than ever before.  Let that sink in – this disease is growing!!  The death count in the U.S. has breached 152,000, and continues to rise daily.  Total U.S. cases top 4.4M and continue to rise.  Predictions for the death cases in the U.S. now top 250,000.  Masks and medicine have become the latest political football. (How in the world did a pandemic become politicized?)    

Sharing time with the pandemic is widespread social unrest stemming from the George Floyd tragedy.  Peaceful demonstration (an invaluable First amendment right) has been met with disturbing response, including the deployment of federal forces, as never before seen.  And then there are those clearly out of line, looting, burning, and destroying.

Also sharing time with the pandemic, perhaps inextricably intertwined with the pandemic, is the onset of a depression-like economy.  The 3rd quarter showed the GDP drop in excess of 30%.  Not since the depression have such drops been experienced.

So, there can be no question we live in difficult and strange times.  A plague, a depression, and social inequality rolled into one year – 2020!!  However, I am here to tell you that we at ABPLA are staying positive and looking forward to an eventual return to normalcy.

To that end we have started hosting a regular Zoom Happy Hour, with a little more substance than just a Happy Hour, as we have an introductory speaker address us on unique case issues. 

Our next happy hour, will be Thursday, August 6, 2020 (7 PM EDT/4 PM PDT) and will feature Jon Lommuro discussing how to manage Audit Trails.  I strongly encourage you to participate in this relaxed informal happy hour if you are able.  I will have Reeve circulate the Zoom invite, but please go ahead and calendar.

Due to popular response, we will regularly hold these Zoom conferences on the first and third Thursday of each month.  We have speakers lined up for the next two months already, and they will include David Drexler, William McMurry, Grace Weatherly and Linley Jones, among others.  Please shoot me an e-mail if you are interested in presenting.  Also don’t forget to get on our list serve and start a discussion about topics you would like addressed. As always drinks of all kinds are encouraged – though it is BYOB!!  

Turning to a more difficult topic, after much consideration, we have decided to cancel the National Legal & Medical Malpractice Conference this year.  It is disappointing to cancel a meeting that I believe is one of the best conferences – ever!!  The CLE is by far the most engaging, but I will miss spending time with each of you most.  I truly believe those in ABPLA have gone beyond the call to demonstrate their expertise in professional liability.  I guess we will have to remotely gather until we can physically meet. 

However, even in the face of the pandemic, the state of the union for ABPLA remains strong.  As you may be aware, the ABA has accredited the ABPLA since it began accrediting specialization programs, providing validity with the state bars and ensuring confidence in the consumers of legal services.  The ABA, while navigating its business practices during the pandemic, has recently reassured the ABPLA, and all national certifying organizations, of the ABA’s commitment to specialization. Our hope is that the ABA can provide the same recognition for board certification that Texas, Florida and California have been able to provide. 

Lastly, I have directed Reeve to design an update of the ABPLA website.  One of the luxuries ABPLA board certification affords us, is our placement in search engines when searching for professional liability.  In most markets the first organic search result for “medical malpractice” is the ABPLA.  This is no small feat, I can assure you.   

We are hoping that with the website “overhaul” we will be able to gain the same top placement for the search term "legal malpractice' as well as we currently enjoy for “medical malpractice”.  In reworking the website, the goal is to have your personal profiles (and links to your website) appear in the organic search results top ranking along with the ABPLA.  As we make progress on this we will reach out to you with a request to update your profile, and provide you with keywords and phrases that you may want to put on your own current site to increase traffic. I expect the new version of the site to be fully functioning before the end of the year.

So I end with the new admonitions of 2020 – “Stay safe and stay strong.” 

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

February 27, 2020

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

I owe each of you an apology. Here it is the end of February, and I am only now dictating my first Presidents Address of the year. My, how time flies when you're having fun!

My January was an absolute blur. Monday, January 6, 2020 was my first trial call. Although I did manage to spend some quality time with family through the holidays, I will remember this time most as trial preparation, though the case did not involve professional negligence.

 Billy was only 23 years old when the scooter he was operating was struck by a negligently driven car. Billy was catastrophically injured. Traumatic brain injury of the worst kind-axonal shearing throughout the brain. Not mild. Not moderate. Catastrophic.

The case necessitated eight damage experts alone. Physical medicine and rehabilitation, case management and life care planning, neurosurgery, orthopedics, neuropsychology, vocational, and economics.  And then there was liability...

After much work, on January 6, 2020, I appeared "Ready for the Plaintiff! " Then came the inevitable letdown. No trial courts available. Come back in six months.

Sometimes it is hard explaining to our families why we miss so many family events in the service of others. An inescapable reality that we all know much too well is that as trial lawyers we have little control over our own calendars. Sometimes unknown judges seem to control our very existence. And yet none of us would trade professions.  A trial lawyer is one of the noblest professions of them all. Sometimes we need remind ourselves of that.

I know just the place where we can do that! On October 15-17th, 2020 at the JW Marriott - Desert Ridge in Scottsdale, Arizona, we will be holding our National Legal & Medical Malpractice Conference. Put it in your calendar now. I repeat, put it in your calendar now. Plan to be there. Where else can you recharge your batteries with great friends and your ABPLA family?

John Romano, Adam Malone, Grace Weatherly, Bill McMurry, Les Weisbrod, Bill Callaham, and Jim Bostwick will "WOW” you, to say the least. Moreover, our program this year is heavily weighted on the medical negligence side with physicians and other medical specialists. The legal negligence side is broad-based with emphasis on ethics. So, to be blunt, this is a conference you will not want to miss. Bring your golf clubs, your swimsuit, your suntan lotion, your hiking boots, your tennis rackets, and whatever else suits your Arizona purposes. The point is-be there.

Though I have been remiss in getting at least my January Address out to you, we have been very busy working with various accrediting organizations and board certifying organizations around the country, including the American Bar Association.  We are working to assure your board certification remains not only relevant to the accrediting organization(s), but also ensuring board certification is on the path to be the gold standard for the consumer of legal services when seeking representation. 

There have been many discussions regarding fees and outreach to the public regarding certification, during the ABA’s restructuring of the Center for Professional Responsibility (which used to house the ABA Section on Specialization).  We do know the ABA is dedicated to Board Certification and in ensuring it remains a prominent achievement for attorneys around the country.  Due to the lobbying of the ABPLA and other organizations, there will be no new fee increases this year with the ABA, which is great news for all Board Certifying Organizations and Board Certified Specialists.

The ABPLA has recently been reaccredited by California, South Carolina, and currently have conditional approval in Florida.  The conditional approval in Florida is that any attorney in Florida seeking NEW certification in Medical Malpractice or Legal Malpractice by the ABPLA must already be Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Florida Bar of Legal Specialization.  While not ideal, for seeking new Certifications, this allows the ABPLA to specifically target attorneys who are familiar with and understand the significance of Board Certification. We will keep you posted on any progress in this arena.

Bill McMurry, past President, will be representing the ABPLA at the American Civil Trial Bar Roundtable in Washington D.C. hosted by ABOTA in March.  The ABPLA is the only national certifying organization in the country who has a seat at this roundtable, which brings together leaders of the major civil trial bar organizations and the ABA to work together in the continuation and preservation of the civil trial justice system. The Roundtable remains active in developing a well-reasoned and balanced approach to civil trial justice issues and is a voice in preserving and promoting the civil jury trial right and an independent and impartial judiciary. Mary Alexander of San Francisco's Mary Alexander & Associates leads the Roundtable for ABOTA, and at a recent dinner expressed interest in working closely with ABPLA.

So, in closing, ABPLA continues to strongly represent your interests moving forward in your practice. I hope to see you in Scottsdale!

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

December 16, 2019

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

First of all, let me wish all of you happy holidays! I write you from New York City which is as decked out as I imagine any place in the world.

The tree is lit, and the store windows are decorated and beautifully alluring. It is truly a magical time of year to be in New York, save the traffic.

They say that patience is a virtue, and I say there must be a lot of very virtuous people in New York this time of year. When calling for an Uber, or a cab, we quickly learned that the drive time through Manhattan was often much, much, longer than the walking time. When it wasn’t raining, or snowing, we walked.  Given all the meals we have enjoyed, it was probably for the best.

As 2019 comes to an end, I am proud to look back on an excellent year with ABPLA.  We are on track to welcome between 8 to 10 new board-certified members, and while that is just shy of the 12 new members our Membership Committee aspired to, it nonetheless reflects ongoing growth to the organization.

The ABPLA website, which lists all of our board-certified lawyers, both legal and medical, is now number one throughout the country when one searches “medical malpractice attorneys”.

Our Conference Planning Committee has been hard at work planning our Conference for next year.  On the “you spoke and we listened category” please calendar October 15-17, 2020, and join us in Scottsdale, Arizona for next year’s Conference. Reeve is in the process of finalizing our resort reservations, so plan to bring your golf clubs, tennis rackets, hiking shoes, and swimsuits.

The medical negligence portion of the Conference will place heavy emphasis on the medical sciences. While speakers are currently being lined up, expect to hear from physicians as well as lawyers. On the legal malpractice side, expect cutting edge information regarding professional negligence cases with emphasis on the ethical practice of law.  It will truly be a conference you will want to attend.

Both Reeve and I worked extensively with ABPLA‘s “sister certifying organizations“, and with the ABA.  While we faced some challenges with the ABA this year, I am happy to report that our relationship with the ABA is promising, though somewhat dynamic. Our next meeting with the ABA will take place in February, 2020. I will certainly have more to report at that time.

The month of December started with a bang for the Scarlett family. I am happy to announce that my son, Randy, passed the California Bar Exam, and was sworn in by his grandfather - Judge Claude Perasso. I couldn’t be prouder, and look forward to practicing law with him.

In closing, I want you all to know how proud I am of the ABPLA, and each of you, our Board Certified lawyers. What you have done in taking that extra step to become board-certified is a value add to each of your clients. So with these thoughts in mind, let me wish each of you happy holidays and a wonderful New Year 

 

 

             

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

October 9, 2019

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

I just returned from Albany, Georgia, where I witnessed our past president, Tommy Malone, being laid to rest. It was one of the most celebratory, but yet very sad, ceremonies I have ever been through.

Wonderful eulogies were given by Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, as well as by William D. Underwood, President, Mercer University.

I thought in this month's President's Address it would only be appropriate to share Tommy's obituary with you:

‘Thomas "Tommy" William Malone, Sr., entered into Paternal Life on October 1, 2019, after a long and courageous battle with cancer that he never quit fighting.

Tommy was born into this life on November 2, 1942, in Albany, Georgia, to Judge Rosser Adams Malone and Petrona "Tony" Underwood Malone. The son of a prosecutor who became a judge, Tommy dreamed of being a rodeo cowboy, auctioneer, blacksmith or farrier. Despite his earliest ambition to ride bucking horses in rodeos, Tommy completed his education in the Dougherty County Public Schools and attended the University of Georgia from 1960 to 1963. From there he went on to attend the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1965, a year before he graduated from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University in 1966.

After graduating from law school, Tommy returned to his hometown of Albany to begin his legal career as a trial lawyer by joining his father’s law practice. Within a few years, Gov. Carl Sanders appointed Tommy's father Director of the State Game and Fish Commission and Tommy founded Malone Law. This was the beginning of Tommy's career as a tenacious legal pioneer. As a pioneer in those days, Tommy was one of very few willing to represent regular people against the rich and powerful establishment which resulted in many losses at trial. Early in his career, after a particularly devastating medical malpractice loss for young paralyzed girl that would have made many lawyers quit, Tommy enlisted the help of the famed "King of Torts", Melvin Belli to partner with him in another suit against the pharmaceutical company which resulted in the largest settlement yet seen in South Georgia. Mel told Tommy he was the best lawyers you've ever seen in the courtroom.

Tommy either believed what Mel told him or didn't have the heart to let Mel be proven wrong and, as a result of that and what he called the "Guiding Hand" in his life, Tommy went on to launch a career of obtaining record-setting recoveries for the families of those severely injured or killed in preventable disasters occurring in hospitals, on the highways, and on the airwaves. Throughout his 50-year legal career, Tommy earned a nationwide reputation of having the highest standards of character and integrity, skill in the courtroom, and an incredible talent to simplify, solve, and explain the most complicated and complex problems. If he believed a case had merit, he feared nothing and fought until the very end. He was considered a giant in the legal arena by his peers.

In addition to being a legal giant, Tommy was a leader in numerous state, national, and international legal organizations. He was a past President of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, the Melvin M. Belli Society, and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He was also honored to be included as a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers, which are reserved and limited to the 500 most elite trial lawyers in the United States and abroad. Tommy was included in the annual listing of the Best Lawyers in America every year for the last 30 years and he was honored as a Super Lawyer every year since the inception of Super Lawyers and was voted by his peers as the number one Super Lawyer in Georgia for the 10 years in a row until his retirement.

Among his many professional awards and honors, the two Tommy was most proud of receiving are both from the Southern Trial Lawyers Association, the coveted "War Horse Award" and, the one named in his honor, the "Tommy Malone Great American Eagle Award". In 2018, the famed author Vincent Coppola together with the Mercer Press, produced a best-selling biography of Tommy Malone's lifetime of making a meaningful difference for others entitled, "Tommy Malone, Trial Lawyer, And the Light Shone Through... The Guiding Hand Shaping One of America's Greatest Trial Lawyers”.

Tommy not only served his clients in the legal profession, but also his community including the Carter Center Board of Counselors, Shepherd Center Foundation Board of Trustees, where he and Debbie were honored with Angel of the Year Award, and the Mercer University Board of Trustees. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Mercer 2015-2017 and has been an ardent supporter of Mercer Law School, endowing the Tommy Malone Distinguished Chair in Trial Advocacy at the law school.

Of his many accomplishments and successes, Tommy was most proud of marrying his life partner, Debbie, the love of his life, his soulmate, closest friend and companion. Their chance encounter in a grocery store bloomed into one of the greatest love stories ever told. Tommy believed his success in his life and career would not have been possible without Debbie's love, understanding, and support. They spent 34 years adoring each other, and their love radiated to everyone around them. They're 32-year marriage mirrored that of what fairy tales are made of; she, his princes, and he, her prince charming.

When Tommy wasn't working, he was with Debbie, traveling, entertaining, deep sea fishing and adding new chapters to their love story. Tommy was known as the life of the party. Together, he and Debbie were most known for their generosity and epic soirées. For decades, their Bahamian estate, Snapper Point in Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island, was the scene of once-in-a-lifetime memories for their family, friends, colleagues, and even mere acquaintances. Everyone who knew Tommy knew the only place to find him during the month of May was with Debbie and their Pomeranians on the 70-foot Striker aptly named "Justice," fishing the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas. Tommy and Debbie loved to travel to many of the Bahamian Islands fishing, exploring and making lifelong friends that they would meet along the way.

Tommy is remembered as a man who was larger-than-life, had an infectious smile, an incredible sense of humor, a fertile mind and integrity like no other. His last days were spent as he had lived - captivating the many who flock to visit him with his quick wit and unparalleled charm.

Tommy is survived by his loving wife, partner, and helpmate of 32 years, Debora "Debbie" Blankenship Malone. He is also survived by his two sons of whom he was most proud, Tommy Malone, Junior, and Adam alone. Adam was deeply honored and felt privileged to a practice lock together as a father/son team with his dad for 16 incredible years. He is proud to be continuing his father's legacy and the work they did together with Malone Law in making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Tommy is also survived by four grandchildren – Maddie, Emilie, Rosser, and Kennedy. Tommy was preceded in death by his parents, Tony and Rosser Malone, and his brother, Ross Malone.” 

As you may recall the ABPLA established the Tommy Malone Distinguished Service Award in 2017 to honor the consummate professional who demonstrates the highest level of ethical conduct, civility, and professional competence in the practice of law. Not only does this honor the recipient but guarantees that Tommy’s light continues to shine upon our profession.

 

I do note, that as Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes delivered his eulogy, he mentioned that Tommy was his best friend. Later in the evening as the group assembled at one of Tommy's favorite restaurants in Albany Georgia, I stood up and noted that there probably wasn't one that attended the service that did not believe themselves to be Tommy's best friend. That was the beauty of Tommy Malone. He was all of our best friend. May we all be blessed to have known him.

 

             

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

September 9, 2019

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

As Stuart M. Speiser related there are four legs supporting the American Civil Justice System: The first is the contingency fee which provides that the client pays only if he or she wins; the second is the protection of losers against fee-shifting (having to pay the winner's legal fees) unless the loser engages in litigation abuse; the third is specialist lawyers who provide legal services equal in quality to those enjoyed by the affluent, without any cash outlay by the clients; and lastly, jury trials available in virtually all civil (as well as criminal) cases.  [see, Stuart M. Speiser, The Founding Lawyers and America's Quest for Justice, Pound Civil Justice Institute 2010, page 231].

Indeed, focusing on the third leg, I note that our legal system provides many highly qualified trial lawyers for those clients who can afford to pay their fees. Their services are essential to the overall scheme of the American Rule of Law since they either bring suit or defend those entities/individuals with the wherewithal to pay. It only makes sense that such lawyers would want to specialize, thereby providing their paying clientele with the added value of their board certified specialization.

So too, does our system provide highly qualified trial lawyers willing to work on a contingency fee. Their services are equally essential to the overall scheme of the American Rule of law. Necessarily these lawyers level the playing field by giving access to those less affluent who are nonetheless harmed by the negligence or wrongful conduct of another. It can therefore only make sense that such lawyers would want to specialize, thereby providing their clientele with the added value of their board certified specialization.

And therein lies the dilemma for all board certified lawyers. What seems so obvious in theory, and what clearly is a bedrock (one of the four legs) of our American Civil Justice System, remains relatively unknown for both the affluent, and the non-affluent. The sad reality is that the value of board certification has yet to be appreciated by the insurance industry and/or by the consumer, alike. And, to be blunt, I believe that until we organize, and get the word out to the consumer, as well as to the insurance industry and business, we are destined to remain an unknown but rich commodity.

I want your ideas. Together we are an amazing force. We have to change the perception of board certification, and we have to get the word out! We are too rich of a commodity for the concept not to take hold much as it has in the medical community. As we often say, who would undergo surgery with the non-board-certified surgeon?

So this month I implore you to get on the listserve and let's discuss a functional plan and implement that plan. There must be a two track process. On the defense side of the "v" I would like to see board certified lawyers throughout the country arranging meetings with the primary insurance companies within their state. We must speak with a unified voice and have a package prepared to present to each carrier educating them as to the benefit of board certification.

On the plaintiff’s side of the “v” it becomes a more difficult process. How do we educate the general public? Certainly we need to integrate into our respective communities and spread the word. However, short of a mass publicity campaign, which likely would be cost prohibitive, I need your input. So please, let's get on the listserv and talk. Let's help each other by educating the consumer and carrier alike as to the benefits of board certification!

In closing, I note that summer rapidly came to an end. With the end of summer, however, came disaster. As each of you are aware, hurricane Dorian spread apocalyptic doom in the Bahamas. It breaks my heart that our great past president, Tommy Malone, lost Snapper Point in the Abaco's to Dorian.  Snapper Point was truly a slice of heaven. Spread over many acres were beautiful homes, a marina, pool and tennis court. It fundamentally changed my outlook on life to have spent time there. Tommy often offered Snapper Point for our board meetings. So, Tommy and Debbie Malone, we give our prayers. Snapper Point may be gone, but it will never leave the memories of those who were blessed to have spent time there with Tommy and Debbie.

What you may not be aware of is that Tommy and Debbie employed many in order to maintain the property for their guests. Mike, the foreman on the property, together with his wife and family equally lost everything. Keva, in charge of maintaining each of the interiors likewise lost everything.  Xante, who performed heavy lifting on the property likewise lost everything. Each family is experiencing apocalyptic conditions. If any of you wish to assist these families, I provide links to a “go fund me page” below. It is extremely difficult for these families to exist, so please consider giving.  Until then, please keep Marsh Harbour and all of its people in your prayers.

 

https://www.gofundme.com/snapper-point-families-marsh-harbour-abaco?pc=em_co_shareflow_m&rcid=r01-156772947963-d885ef83aef84a0e

             

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 
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