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Increase in GDC jurisdiction, IOLTA bill advance

Alan Cooper//January 21, 2011

Increase in GDC jurisdiction, IOLTA bill advance

Alan Cooper//January 21, 2011

A proposal to raise the jurisdictional limit for civil cases from $15,000 to $25,000 cleared the civil subcommittee of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee yesterday.

Senate Bill 774, patroned by A. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, had the support of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, the Virginia Bar Association, the Virginia Bankers Association and such high-volume collections companies as Capital One.

McEachin and representatives of those organizations noted that the limit has not been increased in more than a decade.

Steve Pearson, a lobbyist for the VTLA, told the subcommittee, “It’s easier and faster for parties to try cases in general district court.”

But Ben Lacy, a lobbyist for the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, and Chris LaGow, a lobbyist for several casualty insurers, predicted that the change will result in more de novo appeals to circuit court because defendants will want to take advantage of discovery tools not available in general district court.

“There’s no efficiency to be gained whatsoever to try a case twice that could be tried once,” LaGow said.

Lacy said raising the limit makes sense only if the automatic right of removal to circuit court or limited discovery are part of the proposal.

McEachin won subcommittee approval of another bill, SB 817, which would lift the ban on mandatory IOLTA. The bill would permit the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Virginia State Bar to require lawyers to maintain interest-bearing trust accounts with the interest directed to the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia for legal aid programs.

The Virginia Bar Association and an LSCV spokesman supported the measure in the subcommittee. The Virginia Bankers Association opposed it.

The Supreme Court approved mandatory IOLTA in 1993, but a legislative effort to ban the program resulted in a compromise two years later that now allows lawyers to opt out of the program.


Virginia Lawyers Weekly would like to know what you think of the proposal to reestablish mandatory IOLTA in the commonwealth, so we’re conducting a web poll on the topic. Please take the few minutes to give us your opinions. We’ll publish the results in an upcoming edition of the paper.

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