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What Is The Prestigious Boyd-Graves Conference All About?

I have had the privilege of serving on the Boyd-Graves Conference for many years. The Boyd-Graves Conference is an invitation-only group of experienced civil trial lawyers and judges. Acting by consensus of its membership, the conference recommends changes to the Code of Virginia and the Rules of Court relating to state court civil litigation. The Conference meets annually in the Fall, with members reporting back on assigned study topics suggested by members or others.

Here are a few examples of my recent involvement:

This past year I chaired a study group considering whether changes to Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1:13 were needed. Our specific issue was whether the Rule’s provision allowing for the entry of Court orders without the endorsement of counsel for the parties should be modified. The concern being that entry without counsel endorsements can, in certain circumstances, deprive a litigant of the opportunity to preserve an issue for an appeal, thereby working an injustice. My committee consisted of 5 other lawyers and 2 Circuit Court judges.

After several committee meetings and feedback from the leading members of the appellate bar, the committee recommended that Rule 1:13 be amended to provide that “If the court in its final order bases its ruling on reasoning not presented by a party, any party may note objections to such ruling and reasoning and such objections shall be available for such party to pursue on appeal notwithstanding the provisions of Rule 5:25 or Rule 5A:18.”

I’m proud to report that the conference adopted the study group’s recommendation unanimously. It now moves onto the Conference’s Rules Committee for consideration.

I also served on a committee chaired by fellow past VTLA President Brent Brown, tasked with considering a Rule change to enable a potential party to seek the preservation of security camera footage pre-suit. I have first-hand experience with this issue involving a client who slipped and fell in a large local store. Soon after I was retained, I learned that my client’s fall was captured on the store’s video camera. The claim adjuster told me the video showed my client tripping on her own feet. I asked that the video be provided to me, and if it showed what the adjuster claimed, then her client, the local store, would not be liable, and the claim would not be pursued.

However, the adjuster said the retailer’s policy was not to provide the video without a subpoena. Under current law, there is no way to issue a subpoena for such evidence without a lawsuit being filed, which is what I ultimately had to do to obtain the video. Another member of the study committee had a similar experience. The committee, recognizing that the current Rules often require filing a lawsuit just to preserve or obtain evidence, recommended changes to the Supreme Court Rules regarding pre-suit discovery and preservation of evidence. Specifically, the committee recommended that Rule 4:2 be amended to enable a potential party to seek an order to preserve evidence, pre-suit.

Our Rule change was also adopted unanimously by the Conference and will now be considered by the Conference’s Rule Committee.

The primary goal of the Boyd-Graves Conference, established in 1978, is still very much intact. That goal being civil practice in Virginia can be improved if lawyers with different types of practices from all regions of the state meet and reach consensus about ways to improve the law. I’m honored to be part of influencing fundamental changes that may directly benefit my clients.

If you have any questions about either recommended Virginia Rule change, call or text me at 703-836-3366 or email me at [email protected].

Interested in learning even more about the Boyd-Graves conference, click here.

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