Monthly Archives: March 2013

L.A. County Superior Court to cut 511 positions by summer –

L.A. County Superior Court to cut 511 positions by summer –

The burden of these cuts will fall on the civil justice system since federal and state constitutional mandates require criminal matters to proceed with the same speed.  Therefore, it will be  harder and harder for a civil action to wind its way through the Los Angeles court system.  Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, as Superior Courts throughout California have experienced the kinds of budget cuts that have cut clerk hours almost in half and shuttered numerous courtrooms in San Francisco.

If the legislative and executive branches can impose these types of budget cuts on the judicial, then we will not only lose meaningful civil justice in California courts, but also true separation of powers since two branches are causing the third to wither.

Centex Homes v. Superior Court (City of San Diego)

Centex v. Superior Court examines the conflict between the strict time limit to assert claims against governmental agencies versus those to assert claims for equitable indemnity.

The case involved a complaint of a homeowners associated against Centex filed in 2009 that did not facially identify a basis for a potential cross-complaint against the City of San Diego. In April 2011, the association the Association sent Centex a “notice of commencement of legal proceeding” pursuant to Civil Code section 910 that identified for the first time a problem with the plumbing and sewer lines.  Centex filed a claim against the City in March 2012 for equitable indemnity based on the claimed defects in the cast iron waste piping.  The City rejected the claim because Centex did not present it within six months of its receipt of the 2009 complaint.

The court held that the 2009 complaint did not start the clock ticking to require Centex to bring its claim for indemnity since that pleading did not assert a problem that was a municipal responsibility.

This is a peculiar case since the time limits for governmental claims are generally sacrosanct.  Centex Homes might encouraged disgruntled property owners to assert vague claims against developers in the hopes that the developers will capitulate.  If not, then there is always the possibility of a later amended complaint to bring in governmental agencies long after those agencies should have had peace.

Churning At Law Firms

Suit Offers a Peek at the Practice of Inflating a Legal Bill

A NY Times article exposes a cavalier attitude towards unnecessary billing. There is an ethical to clients that should prevent unnecessary work, but attorneys who give the industry a bad name will put their own financial interests ahead of their clients by doing excessive research or by having too many people working on an issue when one will suffice. The shocking fact in this article is that attorneys who should know better crow about their overbilling in emails.

Clients should know who is working on their matters, why new people are working on a matter before their names show up on a bill, and how the work provided adds value to the process.

Entente Design, Inc. v. Superior Court (Pfeiffer)

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6 provides for a peremptory challenge to a judge that a party believes may be biased.  In a master calendar court, the challenge must occur at the time of appointment.  If a judge is assigned for all purposes, then the challenge must generally occur within 15 days.   In other cases, for assignments known at least 10 days before the date set for trial or hearing, then the challenge must occur within 5 days of that date.

In Entente, the judge assigned for all purposes could not hear the case and transferred it to another judge for trial starting five days later.  The parties seemed to accept the judge, but one side filed a challenge later that day, which the court rejected as untimely, treating the assignment as if it were from a master calendar court.

The court of appeals reversed.  The master calendar rule did not apply.  The parties did not know that the judge assigned for all purposes was acting as a master calendar judge, which would have put them on notice that they needed to review the qualifications of all potential judges.  Therefore, the challenge should have been heard.

Regardless of the outcome, proper trial preparation should include a review of the qualifications of all potential judges.  The reality is that trials are few and far between and budget crises in all civil courts mean that calendars are congested to the point that no party can assume that a particular judge will be around to hear a civil case if it happens to get to trial.

Click Here For Case.