Despite the passage of Proposition 30, California courts continue to operate under substantial fiscal constraints. As a result, Los Angeles County Court officials have announced sweeping cuts in the judicial system. Significant changes in the Los Angeles County judicial system are planned to be implemented over the next six months. The impact of these cuts is expected to be considerable and will surely affect case management in a variety of ways.
In order to address its crippling fiscal pressure, Los Angeles County will roll out the following changes over the next six months:
- Ten local courthouses will close: Huntington Park, Whittier, Pomona North, Malibu, West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, San Pedro, Beacon Street, Catalina and Kenyon Juvenile Justice Center.
- Parties will receive trial and final status conference dates at the filing window when the Complaint is filed.
- All personal injury cases will be assigned to one of two "Master Calendar" ("MC") courtrooms. Each MC Judge is expected to have as many as 8,000 cases at any one time.¹
- Trials will be assigned to one of the dedicated "trial courtrooms". Parties will not know the location of the trial courtroom until the day they appear for trial.
- There will be no court-provided court reporters. Parties will have to arrange for court reporters for all law and motion and trial.
- All court-run ADR programs will be discontinued.
- The Court will be seeking a Court Rule to eliminate case management conferences in personal injury cases.
- There will be no more OSCs re: Dismissal, Default, or Service, nor will there be any Post-Mediation Status Conferences.
What's the Effect
As Lee Smalley Edmon, presiding judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court explained to the Los Angeles Times, "Unfortunately, there are going to be longer lines in each of our courthouses and great delays throughout the system."
Delays in the system will cause trial dates to be set further from the filing of the initial complaint, resulting in the potential for slower case resolution. Slower case resolution means increased costs for case management and more open cases at once. For example, with a longer time frame between the filing of the complaint and trial, there is more time for factual investigation and discovery, increasing litigation costs. Conversely, there is the opportunity for cases to sit stagnant for months without consequence.
What Can We Do
Effective case handling can help combat these impending issues. In order to avoid increased litigation costs, early resolution is even more valuable. Instead of allowing a case to sit stagnant for years, the early development of a litigation strategy will be vital. Without the pressure of an impending trial date, the onus is now, more than ever, on the attorneys to drive the case forward toward pre-trial resolution.
What Happens Next
We anticipate further reduction in courtrooms and courtroom staff in the future. As surrounding counties face similar financial restraints, similar cuts are sure to occur. We will be sure to keep you apprised of similar cuts in the surrounding counties.
¹ CCW will continue to handle all complex cases, asbestos exposure cases, and class actions. However, the Court is considering certain operational changes to eliminate the volume of paper that must be processed in complex cases.