How Are Court Budget Cuts Affecting Trial Dates? Too Soon to Tell.
It is too soon to tell if California civil trials will become an endangered species, as many have predicted, due to court budget cuts.
After the governor announced yet another round of cuts for California courts, a San Francisco Superior Court judge told me civil trials will take five years to get to trial — the statutory maximum delay — because criminal cases take precedence. In my own recent experience, a civil case set for trial April 16, 2012 in S.F. Superior was continued for five months because there were no courtrooms available that week. That’s not all that unusual for the San Francisco civil courts, even before the cuts.
One recent change is the elimination of court reporters for most courtrooms in San Francisco, Alameda, Los Angeles and many other counties. Lawyers now need to arrange for their own court reporters.
On the other hand, lawyers may be reacting too much, too soon to the doom-and-gloom forecasts. I got the following e-mail message sent May 18, 2012 on behalf of Kelly Dermody, president of the Bar Association of San Francisco:
We have been meeting with our San Francisco Superior Court as it continues to respond and adapt to reduced resources and staffing. One of the messages we have heard from the Court is a concern that many litigants with trial dates are appearing on the day of trial unprepared to go forward, presumably because they have expected (erroneously) that no courtroom would be available due to budget cuts. . . . Accordingly, we hope you will spread the message widely that, at least for now, trial dates are holding and the Court expects (and the system needs) parties to be prepared for trial or to seek relief from trial dates sufficiently in advance of trial.
There you have it. Trials are still getting courtrooms — at least sometimes and at least for now. As I’ve often said, don’t assume your case is not going to start as scheduled. It’s a variant of Murphy’s Law. If you’re not ready for trial call, you are sure to be assigned a courtroom.
Which reminds me of a joke.
Woman (as it starts to rain): Why don’t you open your umbrella?
Man: It won’t help. It’s full of holes and leaky.
Woman: Then why did you bring it?
Man: I didn’t think it was going to rain.
About California Litigation Firm Newdorf Legal
David Newdorf is managing attorney of Newdorf Legal, which represents individuals, businesses and public entities in trials and appeals. The firm’s practice areas include business disputes, business torts/interference with contract, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, investment disputes, real estate, commercial landlord-tenant cases, and municipal law.
Mr. Newdorf worked previously as a trial lawyer and team leader in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and was a litigation associate at a major international law firm. Mr. Newdorf was recently listed, for the second year in a row, in Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, an honor reserved for 5 percent of the State’s lawyers based on nomination by fellow lawyers and evaluation of professional reputation and achievement. In a more unusual accolade, Mr. Newdorf was named “Badass lawyer of the week” by The Recorder’s blog, LegalPad.