Almost 60 years ago a handful of personal injury attorneys met and formed what is now known as the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association. From those humble beginnings, the CTLA has grown into the force which it is today. As an organization we have become the leading voice at the Capital for protecting the civil jury system. Not only do we serve others, we serve our own members with seminars that are consistently terrific. The CTLA Listserve has become an invaluable practice tool to most of our membership. The list of services we provide for our members seems endless. However, above all, we remain committed to protecting the rights of the injured.
In order to achieve our goals we have pursued legislation, provided testimony, and met with our elected officials to not only effect change, but maintain the rights of our clients which are often under attack. However, I do not think we can focus all our energies solely on the Capital. We need to work harder with our colleagues on the Bench. Through rule making and collaboration, we not only should be able to make their and our jobs easier, but also we can help make the court system more efficient. Further, by partnering with the Connecticut Defense Lawyers Association on those issues where we have common interest, we can fix obvious problems.
The American Association for Justice (AAJ) recently invited the Presidents of each state Trial Lawyer Association to a conference in Washington, where we collaborated and shared information. I can assure you the CTLA is doing very well compared to our peers from other states. Our membership numbers have been consistent even in a down economy. Onerous pre-suit requirements that serve neither plaintiffs nor defendants have been avoided. Our Constitution assures our continuing right to individual voir dire. Most importantly, we have a dedicated, independent and talented Judiciary.
We cannot, however, become complacent. If anything is certain, it is that this Spring we will be faced with many proposals at the Capital that will adversely affect the fair jury system, our clients and our livelihoods. There really is strength in numbers. If you have a person in your firm who is not a member of CTLA, please consider signing them up for just a base level membership. It is so very important to keep our membership numbers up.
The overwhelming majority of our members remains solo practitioners or come from small firms. Most of our members do not practice personal injury exclusively and their personal injury caseload is comprised of car accident claims, fall downs, and workers compensation cases. We need to continue to make sure that CTLA is serving the needs of all these members. If you have any ideas for how CTLA can improve your practices or your lives, please do not hesitate to bring those to my attention. That is not an empty invitation. I have spent countless hours over the past 20 years giving my time and energy to the CTLA. I very much want to see it continue to succeed and serve its members.
We have a core group of people who share these beliefs. Our Board of Governors is a working Board. The members of the Board are generally the people who we rely upon to testify at the Capital, support candidates who defend the civil justice system, and shepherd our organization. We have committee members who spend their time writing amicus briefs, thinking of ways to change the perception of lawyers, or coming up with legislative proposals. We have an office staff that works tirelessly to meet our goals. And most importantly, we have our members. Perhaps nothing is more impressive about our membership than when someone posts a question on Listserve and within minutes other members are sharing briefs that took many hours of their time to write. Why do they do that? Because they realize that we are all in this together.
I encourage each of you to become more involved in the CTLA. Join a committee. Attend a meeting. You will meet people with whom you will develop lifelong friendships.
Years ago I tried a routine car accident case in New Haven. The jury came back with a verdict which was a little less than I wanted and a little more than the carrier wanted to pay. The trial judge, who still sits on the bench in a different venue, addressed the jury after the verdict. He told them that they had come back with a just result. He explained to them that our court system is under constant attack in the public arena. The media only reports on verdicts that are perceived as being very high or very low, portraying the system as broken. However, he explained, every single day juries around Connecticut are coming back with verdicts that are fair. He then encouraged each of them to tell their families, friends, and co-workers that they had sat on a jury and that our system works.
Our system does work and it is the job of each of us to protect it. We also need to educate our legislators and the public that it works.
Lastly, let me thank each of you for this opportunity to serve you as President of the CTLA. For the past six years, as I have worked my way up the officer chain, I have had the opportunity to see and work with some truly amazing people who have served CTLA as President. Each one of them did the job because they believe in the organization. Each one of them did it well and with their own style. It is an honor to join their ranks.
Thank you and please let me know if there is any way I can serve you.
Doug Mahoney, CTLA’s current Board President, is a partner of Tremont & Sheldon, P.C. in Bridgeport.