S.F. Superior Court’s Closure of One Law & Motion Courtroom Will Lead to Big Changes

September 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Around the Courthouse

Effective October 3, 2011, San Francisco Superior Court is closing one of its two Law and Motion courtrooms due to budget cut backs.

The new Law and Motion judge will be the Hon. Harold E. Kahn, to be located in Department 302 at the Civic Center Courthouse. Judges Peter Busch and Loretta Giorgi, who had been assigned to Law and Motion duties, will be moving on to the Hall of Justice, where they will preside over criminal trials.

The coming 50 percent reduction in judicial staffing will lead to big changes in civil law and motion practice. Just a year or two ago, there were two commissioners handling discovery motions in addition to two Law and Motion judges. The Court elminated the Discovery Departments and shifted that work to the two law and motion judges. Now, Judge Kahn will be handling the work load formerly shared by four judicial officers (with the exception of asbestos cases, which have all been transferred to a new, specialized department).

In the past, a lawyer could schedule a motion in S.F. Superior Court on any date without first reserving the hearing date. That will inevitably change. San Francisco will be forced to follow other Bay Area courts, such as San Mateo and Alameda County, that ration hearing dates. These courts — and no doubt, San Francisco soon — allow only a limited number of motions on each hearing date. In some counties, it takes 60 days to have a demurrer heard. With several rounds of motions and amended complaints, a case can easily plod along for a year or more in the initial pleading phase.

This cutback came after the state Judicial Council provided several million dollars in additional funding in order to stave off even more severe layoffs in San Francisco Superior Court. The state court cutbacks will likely put additional pressure on federal courts as more lawyers decide to go federal if they have that option. For years, the trend had been in favor of state court filing. Many lawyers who could have filed in federal court chose to file employmnent and civil rights cases in Superior Court under California state stautes to avoid federal court.

With these cutbacks, lawyers will need to be more focused and effective advocates to get the attention of an over-worked Law and Motion department. See San Francisco Law and Motion Tips for best practices in this department.


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