Stays, Bonding and Supersedeas in California: The Trial Court Just Ruled – Now What?

by Pablo Drobny, recently retired Lead Appellate Court Attorney from the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District

I.  If the order or judgment is not appealable.

A.  If you are the losing side, consider a traditional writ petition.

B.  If you are winning side, remember an improper appeal does not stay enforcement of the order.

II.  When the judgment or order is immediately appealable, before a notice of appeal is filed:

A.  Review the statutes concerning stays and bonding on appeal to determine which provisions apply to your case.

i.  If more than one applies, see CCP §917.6.

B.  If you are the losing side, consider asking for a discretionary 10 day stay from the trial court (CCP §918).

C.  If you are the losing side, and you are indigent, make a motion under  CCP §995.240.

D.  If you are the winning side, consider asking the trial court to require a bond or undertaking (CCP §917.9.) even where the statute doesn’t require it.

III. Where CCP §916 applies, is the judgment stayed?

(See URS Corp. v. Atkinson/Walsh Joint Venture (2017) 15 Cal. App. 5th 872.)

A.  Filing of a notice of appeal does NOT stay a mandatory injunction.

B.  Filing of a notice of appeal does NOT stay matters not embraced in the judgment or affected thereby.

IV.  When to petition for a writ of supersedeas — CCP §923.

A.  When a bond is required but you cannot post one.

i.  Only if you first requested waiver in the trial court.

B.  When respondent and the trial court refuse to acknowledge a statutory stay — automatic or otherwise.

C.  When appellant wrongly insists there is an automatic stay.

D.  When the trial court denied a motion for a discretionary bond.


Pablo has spoken at every one of our appellate and writ seminars held in Los Angeles, since 2007. He’s the best – and one of the best rated speakers of all time! You can find some of his programs here:

Appellate Law Bundle

1st Annual Advanced Appellate Conference [Civil]

2nd Annual Appellate Conference

3rd Annual Advanced Conference

Demystifying Civil Appeals and Writs

Or you can just go to our audio page and search on “Appellate” as the keyword and California as the location.

Statements of Decision: The Ideal and the Reality

by T. Peter Pierce, Esq., of Richards, Watson & Gershon

Earlier this year, we held our annual 3rd Advanced Appellate Conference program. One of our speakers, T. Peter Pierce, spoke about Statements of Decision: The Ideal and the Reality at that program, along with the Hon. Kathleen Banke, Associate Justice, CA Court of Appeal, 1st Appellate District, Division One. Peter has spoken at all of our appellate programs, including our 1st and 2nd Annual Advanced Appellate Conferences. And of course Peter will be back for our 4th Annual Advanced Appellate Conference as well. Justice Banke spoke at this year’s program (3rd Annual) and is speaking at our 4th Annual program in SF on January 31st, 2019 as well.

Both Peter and Justice Banke are fantastic speakers, as our attendees note every time they see Peter and Justice Banke speak.

We wanted to share with you some of their discussion, rules and cases they mentioned that you need to know about, and tips regarding Statements of Decision. And be sure to read all the way to the bottom to get to their list of strategies to employ.

A.     Applicable Circumstances for a Statement of Decision
– Trial court MUST issue a tentative decision on “the trial of a question of fact by the court.” (Cal. Rule Court (CRC) 3.1590.)
– Trial court MAY issue Statement of Decision on “the trial of a question of fact by the court.”  (CCP section 632.)  Must issue under certain circumstances (see below).
– Scope of “trial of a question of fact by the court.”  Does it apply to law and motion or other matters?

B.      Timing and Procedure Intertwined
1.  If trial is concluded within one calendar day or less than eight hours spread over more than one day, a party must request a Statement of Decision before the case is submitted for decision. Failure to do so means the loss of any right to a Statement of Decision, although a court may still issue one at its discretion. (CCP 632.)
2.  Regardless of length of trial, the trial court is required to issue a tentative decision. 
a.      If the trial court opts to announce a tentative decision orally, it must announce it in open court in the presence of all parties appearing at trial (CRC 3.1590(a)).  If the trial is concluded within one calendar day, or lasted less than eight hours, a party is not entitled to a written Statement of Decision.  Under CCP section 632, the trial court may issue an oral Statement of Decision.
b.      If the trial court does not announce its tentative decision in open court with all parties present, it must serve all parties with a minute order or written tentative decision.
         3.      Four specified options for a tentative decision are:
  Option 1- Court states that tentative decision is its proposed Statement of Decision (CRC 3.1590(c)(1)).
Issue: Does a party have 10 days after announcement or service of tentative decision to request that the Statement of Decision be modified to include certain issues (CRC 3.1590(d)), or does a party have 15 days under CRC 3.1590(g) to serve and file objections? Probably the latter because CRC 3.1590(c)(1) expressly refers to subdivision (g).
  Option 2- Court states it will prepare a Statement of Decision  (CRC 3.1590(c)(2)).  A party may request within 10 days of announcement or service of the tentative decision that the Statement of Decision include certain issues. (CRC 3.1590(d)).  The request should specify the controverted issues which the Statement of Decision should address.  (CCP section 632.)  Court must then prepare and serve a proposed Statement of Decision within 30 days of the announcement or service of its tentative decision.
   Option 3- Court orders a party to prepare a Statement of Decision (CRC 3.1590(c)(3)).  A party not ordered to prepare a Statement of Decision may request within 10 days of announcement or service of the tentative decision that the Statement of Decision include certain issues.  (CRC 3.1590(d).)  The request should specify the controverted issues which the Statement of Decision should address.  (CCP section 632.)
Option 4- Court directs that the tentative decision will become the Statement of Decision unless within 10 days a party (1) specifies the issues it requests be included in the Statement of Decision, or (2) “makes proposals” not included in the tentative decision (CRC 3.1590(c)(4)).  If a party does so, the court must then prepare and serve a proposed Statement of Decision within 30 days of the announcement or service of its tentative decision.
         4. The four options in the rule are not exclusive; the rule is phrased in the permissive “may.”  The court could do something else, like send out a written tentative decision without any further direction to the parties.
         Permissive language is consistent with the rule that a Statement of Decision is not required unless the parties request it.  If a Statement of Decision is timely requested and not waived, the trial court must render a Statement of Decision (Karlsen v. Superior Court(2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 1526, 1530-1531).  CCP section 632 requires the trial court to issue a Statement of Decision upon the request of any party if made within 10 days after the court announces a tentative decision (with exception of shorter trial where request must be made before submission of case).
Where the court did not designate either party to prepare a Statement of Decision, by default, and by analogy to California Rules of Court, rule 232(c) [predecessor to Rule 3.1590(c)], the court is required to prepare it.  (In re Marriage of Sellers(2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1007, 1010–1011.)
        5.     Failure to issue a Statement of Decision in response to a timely request is not per se reversible error.  Instead, the failure is subject to harmless error review.  (F.P. v. Monier (November 27, 2017).)

C.      Elements of Statement of Decision
“A statement of decision explains the factual and legal bases for the trial court’s decision in a nonjury trial.” (Uzyel v. Kadisha(2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 866, 896.)

To comply with a request for a Statement of Decision, a court need only fairly disclose its determinations as to the ultimate facts and material issues in the case. (Central Valley General Hospital v. Smith (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 501, 513.) When this rule is applied, the term ‘ultimate fact’ generally refers to a core fact, such as an essential element of a claim. Ultimate facts are distinguished from evidentiary factsand from legal conclusions. (Metis Development LLC v. Bohacek(2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 748, 758.)

The trial court is not required to respond point by point to the issues posed in a request for Statement of Decision. The court’s Statement of Decisionis sufficient if it fairly discloses the court’s determination as to the ultimate facts and material issues in the case.  (Ermoian v. Desert Hospital(2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 475, 494-495, 497-500; Golden Eagle Ins. Co. v. Foremost Ins. Co.(1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1372, 1379–1380.)

A Statement of Decisionneed not address all the legal and factual issues raised by the parties. Instead, it need do no more than state the grounds upon which the judgment rests, without necessarily specifying the particular evidence considered by the trial court in reaching its decision.  (Muzquiz v. City of Emeryville(2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 1106, 1124.)

D.     Omissions or Ambiguities in the Proposed Statement of Decision
If a party fails to bring omissions or ambiguities in the proposed Statement of Decision’sfactual findings to the trial court’s attention, that party waives the right to assert on appeal that the Statement of Decision is deficient. (Fladeboe v. American Isuzu Motors Inc. (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 42, 59.)  The doctrine of implied findings would then apply if the statement truly contained ambiguities or omissions.

Ordinarily, when the court’s Statement of Decision is ambiguous or omits material factual findings, a reviewing court is required to infer any factual findings necessary to support the judgment. (Ermoian v. Desert Hospital(2007) 152 Cal. App. 4th 475, 494-495.)

If the Statement of Decision fails to decide a controverted issue or is ambiguous, any party may bring the omission or ambiguity to the trial court’s attention either before the entry of judgmentor in conjunction with a new trial motion or a motion to vacate the judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section 663. (CCP § 634.)  If an omission or ambiguity is brought to the trial court’s attention, the reviewing court will not infer findings or resolve an ambiguity in favor of the prevailing party on that issue. (CCP § 634.)

If an omission is not brought to the trial court’s attention as provided under the statute, however, the reviewing court will resolve the omission by inferring findings in favor of the prevailing party on that issue.If an ambiguity is not brought to the trial court’s attention as provided under the statute, the reviewing court will resolve the ambiguity by inferring that the trial court decided in favor of the prevailing party on that issue. (Code Civ. Proc., § 634.) To bring an omission or ambiguity to the trial court’s attention for purposes of Code of Civil Procedure section 634, a party must identify the defect with sufficient particularity to allow the court to correct the defect.  (Uzyel v. Kadisha(2010) 188 Cal. App. 4th 866, 896-897; Bay World Trading, Ltd. v. Nebraska Beef, Inc.(2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 135,139 [objections must be filed 15 days after proposed decision].)

In rendering a Statement of Decision under Code of Civil Procedure section 632, a trial court is required only to state ultimate rather than evidentiary facts.  The trial court need not discuss each issue listed in a party’s request for a Statement of Decision; all that is required is an explanation of the factual and legal basis for the court’s decision regarding the principal controverted issues at trial. (In re Marriage of Balcof (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 1509, 1530; Hellman v. La Cumbre Golf & Country Club(1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 1224, 1230; Wallis v. PHL Associates, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 814, 824–827.)  Only when the trial court fails to make findings on a material issue which would fairly disclose the trial court’s determination would reversible error result.  If the judgment is otherwise supported, the omission of findings is harmless error unless the evidence is sufficient to sustain a finding in the losing party’s favor which finding would completely undermine findings supporting the judgment. A failure to make findings on an immaterial issue is not reversible error.

E.      Objections to a Proposed Statement of Decision
Any defects in the trial court’s Statement of Decisionmust be brought to the court’s attention through specific objectionsto the statement itself – not through a proposed alternative Statement of Decision. By filing specific objections to the court’s Statement of Decisiona party pinpoints alleged deficiencies in the statement and allows the court to focus on the facts or issues the party contends were not resolved or whose resolution is ambiguous. A proposed alternative Statement of Decisiondoes not serve these functions and does not satisfy the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 634 and Rule 3.1590. (Golden Eagle Ins. Co. v. Foremost Ins. Co.(1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1372, 1380; Bay World Trading, Ltd. v. Nebraska Beef, Inc. (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 135,139–140; Ermoian v. Desert Hospital(2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 475, 497-500;Fladeboe v. American Isuzu Motors Inc. (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 42, 59-61.)

F.      Interplay Between Statement of Decision and Judgment
A court may amend its Statement of Decisionafter it receives objections from affected parties. If judgment has not yet been entered, the trial court has inherent power to amend its Statement of Decision to award prejudgment interest. Even after a court has issued a written decision, the court retains authority to change its findings of fact or conclusions of law until judgment is entered. Until a judgment is entered, a Statement of Decision is not effectual for any purpose (Code Civ. Proc., § 664).  A court sitting as a trier of fact may at any time before entry of judgment amend or change its findings of fact.  (Bay World Trading, Ltd. v. Nebraska Beef, Inc.(2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 135, 141.)

A Statement or Decision or memorandum of decision is not appealable. Courts embody their final rulings not in Statements of Decision but in orders or judgments. Reviewing courts have discretion to treat Statements of Decision as appealable when they must, as when a Statement of Decision is signed and filed and does, in fact, constitute the court’s final decision on the merits. But a Statement of Decision is not treated as appealable when a formal order or judgment follows. (Pangilinan v. Palisoc(2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 765, 769; Alan v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc.(2007) 40 Cal.4th 894, 901.)

G.     Strategies Involving Statement of Decision
–        If the tentative decision is in your favor, do not request a Statement of Decision.
–        If the tentative decision is against you, timely request a Statement of Decision.  Possible exception when de novo standard of review.
–        If you lose on the tentative, identify alternative theories that the trial court did not decide, and request an express statement that the trial court did not reach the issues encompassed within those theories.
–        Be judicious in objecting to Statement of Decision.  Focus on broader issues and not on every minor point.
–        If you are the prevailing party, and the losing party objects to the Statement of Decision, think carefully about whether the objections will allow the trial court to clear up ambiguities and omissions, thereby bolstering the judgment in your favor.
–        If you are required to request a Statement of Decision before the case is submitted, make an educated guess as to whether you will be the prevailing party.

 

 

Administrative Writ of Mandamus – What is it?

by Charles L. Post, Esq. and Eunice C. Majam-Simpson, Esq.

In 2017, we held a terrific program on Administrative Writs of Mandamus. Two of our speakers, Charles L. Post, Esq. and Eunice C. Majam-Simpson, Esq., created this terrific outline highlighting the things you need to know about what an Administrative Writ of Mandamus is and the process surrounding it.

If you are interested in knowing more about Administrative Hearings, we have a program on that topic this December 6th, 2018 in Sacramento at the Hyatt. You can find out more about that program here. (And if you are reading this post after that program was held, click on the link to order the audio package and see the testimonials). Our audio packages include all materials distributed at the program, and the PowerPoints.

Administrative Writ of Mandamus – What is it?

A.  What is it?

  1.  A method of obtaining judicial review of agency (public and private) decisions and actions.

B.  Two Types

1.  “Administrative Mandamus” under CCP §1094.5 et seq.

2.  “Traditional” or “Ordinary” Mandamus Pursuant to CCP §1084

C.  Uses and Prerequisites

1.  Challenge of an agency’s adjudicatory decision (a decision that concerns private rights or interests, when a hearing is required by law to be given before the agency that issues the decision).

2.  Prerequisites

–  Final agency decision

–  The decision resulted from a proceeding which was required by law

–  Evidence was required to be taken

–  Discretion in factual determinations is vested within the agency

–  “Agency” can mean both governmental and private organizations

D.  Goal of Administrative Mandamus Review

1.  To obtain a writ (an order from the Court) to a lower tribunal (the agency) directing the agency to set aside its decision, to reconsider its decision, or take such other action as the Court directs. (CCP §1094.5(f).)

2.  Special Proceedings

–  CEQA (Public Resources Code § 21165.7)

–  Traditional Mandamus (CCP §§ 1084-1097, 1107-1110(b))

E.  Features of Administrative Mandamus

1.  Administrative mandamus is a civil, special proceeding. (CCP § 23-63)

2.  Administrative mandate is a judicial review but it is not a reconsideration of the agency decision. There are some agency decisions that by statute or case law are judicially reviewed at the appellate level. (Public Utilities Commission, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, State Bar, etc.)

3.  Equity applies in administrative mandamus. Curtain v. DMV (1981) 123 Cal.App.3d 481, 484.

4.  Speedy proceeding. Mandate hearings usually occur within weeks or months of a filing. Local court rules may specifically control the filing of an administrative mandamus (departments which may hear, other rules, etc.).

5.  No damages. In very narrow circumstances, a separate, later action for damages may be instituted. O’Hagan v. Board of Zoning Adjustment (1974) 38 Cal.App.3d 722, 729.

6.  No jury. Administrative mandamus is heard by the Court. CCP §1094.5(a).

7.  Administrative exhaustion required before judicial review is available by administrative mandamus.

8.  A court considering a writ of administrative mandamus conducts a limited trial de novo, reviewing the administrative proceedings and the evidence admitted during the hearing. A court may inquire into whether the agency acted in excess of its jurisdiction, committed a serious error of law, or abused its discretion in determining of facts. CCP §1094.5(b)-(c).

9.  Understand the standard of review. “Substantial evidence” or “independent judgment”.

10.  Petitioner has the burden of proof. “Rarely if ever, will a board determination be disturbed unless the petitioner is able to show a jurisdictional excess, a serious error of law, or an abuse of discretion on the facts.” Fukuda v. City of Angels (1999) 20 Cal.4th 805, 814.

11.  New evidence not admissible. (Yes, there are exceptions but they are few and far between. More on this later.)

12.  “Discovery” as that term is used in the Civil Code as to civil proceedings is not available in the usual administrative mandate proceedings. (Yes, there are exceptions. More on this later.)

13.  Presumption that the administrative decision is correct.

14.  Prevailing party obtains costs, including administrative record preparation costs, and other costs of suit.

15.  Attorney’s fees not usually available. (Yes, there are exceptions. More on this later.)

16.  Generally no joinder with other causes of action. (No addition of declaratory relief, etc.) Allowed when cases of unconstitutionality declarations or applications for traditional mandamus (especially useful when uncertain as to which type of writ should be sought).

17.  A hearing on a petition for writ of administrative mandamus proceeds like a law and motion matter but the result of the judgment. CCP §1094.5(a), (f). This hearing, therefore is the only “trial” in an administrative mandamus action. Unlike other types of trials, no witnesses testify, and with certain limited exceptions, the only evidence the Court can consider is the evidence in the administrative record.

F.  Judicial Review of What?

1.  Governmental agency decisions. Although there are a few statutory exceptions, proceedings under CCP §1094.5 are the exclusive remedy for challenging the final adjudicatory decision of a state or local government agency when the decision is the result of a required evidentiary hearing. The list of qualifying decisions is long: professional license denial, licensed disciplinary proceedings, employee discipline imposed by a state or local public employers, termination of tenured teachers, driver’s license decisions, denial of disability retirement benefits, and many zoning and land use decisions.

2.  Adjudicatory decisions of private organizations. Any private organization that by bylaws or due to internal rules must hold a hearing and reach an adjudicatory decision may be submitted to administrative writ review. Hospital privilege decisions, internal insurer decisions regarding fees that will be charged by participating practitioners, private company decisions to terminate or discipline employees under a grievance procedure that requires evidence to be taken and considered during a hearing and union decisions.

G.  How is this different from traditional Mandamus?

1.  Traditional writ of mandate under CCP §1085 is appropriate when the Petitioner has no plain, speedy, and adequate alternative remedy and the Respondent has a clear, present and usually ministerial duty to act.

2.  Traditional mandamus may also apply when an administrative agency is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing.

3.  Quasi-legislative acts may also be reviewed on traditional mandate.

H.  Objections to Evidence.

1.  Offering Evidence. A party may lose the opportunity to raise on writ of administrative mandamus by failing to raise the issue in the administrative hearing. This rule also applies to defenses that require an evidentiary showing. Jenron Corp. v. Dept. of Social Services (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 1429, 1437 (failure to raise laches defense in administrative hearing waives the issues in subsequent administrative mandamus proceeding).

2.  A party must object to the admission of evidence at the administrative hearing, otherwise the evidentiary objection will be deemed waived. Hand v. Board of Examiners (1977) 66 Cal.App.3d 605, 613.

a.  Hearsay evidence in administrative proceedings. Important differences from civil proceedings. Hearsay is generally admissible to supplement or explain other evidence in administrative proceedings, as long as it is both relevant and is “the sort of evidence on which responsible persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs.” Gov’t. Code § 11513(c). Specific rules applicable to a given administrative proceeding may further limit or permit the use of hearsay. Know your rules.

b.  Hearsay objections must be made at the hearing. At risk of waiving issue in later judicial review.

c.  Exceptions

(1)      Lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

(2)      Failure to state a cause of action.

(3)      Constitutional issues.

d.  These issues may be raised at any time. Don’t rely on an exception. All things being equal, it is better to object than not object. Consider use of wholesale “throughout this proceeding” objections. Often the administrative hearing officer will prefer such “global” objections rather than forcing him or her to rule on each individual objection. This time saving technique, however, can have pitfalls. Make sure that the stipulation that all objections have been made and preserved is on the record.

I.  The Record

1.  The standard applies whether the Court is considering the writ under the independent judgment test or the substantial evidence test. This is also true when the Court is deciding a purely legal issue.

2.  CCP §1094.5(e) expressly limits judicial review to the evidence in the administrative record except when: (1) the evidence could not, with due diligence, have been procedure during the administrative proceedings; or (2) the administrative body improperly excluded the evidence. Western States Petroleum Assoc. v. Superior Court (1995) 9 Cal.4th 559, 578.

3.  Evidence outside the administrative record might also be appropriately considered on issues not related to the validity of the decision being challenged such as standing and capacity to sue; affirmative defenses such as laches, estoppel and res judicata and the accuracy of the record. Western States, supra, 9 Cal.4th at 578.

4.  Sufficient record is essential to meet Petitioner’s burden. Eureka Citizens for Responsible Government v. City of Eureka. That said, in cases where the issues is purely legal and base on undisputed facts, a full record may not be necessary. Elizabeth D. v. Zolin (1993) 21 Cal.4th 347, 353.

5.  When to make the request. The record may be requested before filing, at the time of filing, or shortly after filing a petition. The Respondent agency may begin preparing the record as soon as the petition has been filed. However, this is a statutory and regulatory driven process. Petitioner should ascertain whether a particular statutory or regulatory scheme includes any special requirements concerning when the record must be requested.

6.  Make request in writing.

7.  Laches, burden of proof, res judicata, estoppel, validity of regulations, duress and necessity. May be supported by evidence outside the record.

8.  Bias charges.

a.  Raising the issue.

b.  Constitutional due process requires a competent and impartial tribunal in administrative hearings. The issue of bias must be raised at the administrative hearing. In APA Act cases, claim of prejudice must be raised under the procedures of Government Code § 11512(c) or the issue will be waived. Less stringent standard of impartiality than allowed for a hearing for judges in a civil matter. “The fact that an administrative agency is both accuser and judge is not considered to deprive the accused of due process of law.” Hallot v. Superior Court (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 1575.

9.  Statute of limitation issues. In cases governed under CCP §1094.6 and the Administrative Procedures Act, request for preparation of the administrative record within 10 days after the date of the administrative decision being challenged, the applicable statute of limitations will be tolled until 30 days after the record has been delivered or mailed to the Petitioner. CCP §1094.6(d).

J.  BEWARE! Know your statutes.

1.  Different statutes have different statute of limitations and time limits.

2.  Preparation of the record can take months, certain time lines apply.

 K.  Record Preparation.

1.  The Petitioner has the burden of proof and bears the burden and the cost of preparing and producing the administrative record. CCP §1094.5(a), CCP §1094.6(c).

2.  This cost may be recoverable if the Petitioner prevails.

3.  Agencies are required to prepare and produce a record.

Top Tips For Demurrers

Steven Ragland, a partner at Keker, Van Nest and Peters has spoken at our annual California Superior Court Boot Camps almost every year since 2010.

At one of our prior Superior Court Boot Camps, Steven provided this terrific tip sheet for handling Demurrers. It contains suggestions regarding what you need to think about when filing a Demurrer, when writing the brief, and other things you must consider, including arranging for the court reporter, checking the tentative ruling, and preparing the order.

If you’d like to attend our 13th Annual Superior Court Boot Camp, coming up on November 8th in San Francisco, please go here. You can also pre-order the audio package for the San Francisco program, or purchase the audio package for the program just held in Los Angeles on October 12th, at the link provided.

But register quickly (if you see this post before November 8th, 2018) because we’re almost sold out in San Francisco.

Enjoy!

Tips for Demurrers:

I.  Initial Considerations – consider whether you should file a demurrer

A.  Defects in plaintiff’s legal theory must appear on the face of the complaint itself, or through judicially noticeable matters

B.  Only file if it serves a litigation purpose

1.  Expensive for client

2.  Plaintiff will almost certainly get leave to amend

3.  Demurrer will educate adversary

4.  Might result in a stronger complaint

C.  Read (or re-read) Weil & Brown, CCP, and local rules before drafting

D.  Get more time from Plaintiff if you need it (check rules for when stipulation is enough and when you need ex parte application/court order)

II.  Brief-writing considerations

A.  Have a Theme. Really, have a theme.

1.  After striking out before another tribunal, plaintiff tries its hand here

2.  No good deed goes unpunished

3.  A deal is a deal

4.  Here we go all over again (especially for successive demurrer)

B.  Make the Intro count

1.  The Introduction should tell the whole story in summary form

2.  It should tell the Court why you should win—both under the law and as a matter of justice/fairness

3.  After reading Introduction, Judge/law clerk should be convinced you win

C.  Organization matters

1.  Use headings/sub-headings

2.  Headings should be declarative sentences

a.  “This Demurrer should be sustained because the Complaint neither sets forth the material terms of the contract nor attaches the purported contract.”

b.  “The Complaint fails to join indispensable parties.”

c.  “This Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Federal Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over cases requiring resolution of patent law issues.”

3.  Headings should tell your entire story

a.  The Judge should be able to scan the table of contents and remember exactly what you are arguing

b.  If fact section is long, break it up

(i)  Your fact section headings can preview your arguments

4.  Spend the time needed to organize arguments

a.  If brief is not easy to follow, you’re more like to lose

D.  Reveal and deal with contrary authority

1.  Always address and distinguish all of your opponent’s primary cases (and secondary to, if possible)

2.  Don’t assume opponent won’t find the cases that go against you

3.  Candor is crucial

a.  Be honest about the hurdles you face, then explain how you clear them

b.  Evasiveness and misstatements of the law erode your credibility, and can lose your motion (never jeopardize your reputation)

E.  Lead with your strength

1.  If you have four arguments for demurrer, address strongest one first, then go down in descending order of strength

2.  If you have one really solid basis, don’t waste space/credibility with marginal arguments

3.  If opposing, take on defendant’s strongest argument first and eviscerate it

4.  On Reply, you don’t have to follow opposition’s organization

F.  Every brief should be a stand-alone document

1.  Write the Reply/Opposition so it makes sense even without reading any other brief (or the Complaint)

G.  Miscellaneous

1.  Don’t be nasty

a.  Opponent is wrong, not “lying” or “conniving” or “slimy”

2.  If you see an adjective or adverb, delete it (most of the time)

3.  Short, declarative sentences; eliminate passive voice

III.  Arrange for a Court Reporter

A.  Coordinate logistics with your adversary and agree to share costs

B.  Even if you lose, what’s said at the hearing may be useful to your client (e.g., successive demurrers, limiting / narrowing discovery, holding plaintiff to its theory, crystallizing issues for summary judgment)

IV.  Check the tentative ruling

A.  Check it as soon as it comes out (check local practice)

B.  Don’t forget—set an Outlook reminder

C.  Notify opponent if you intend to contest—check rules for deadlines and requirements for notice

D.  If you win tentative, sit on your hands

1.  Do not contact opposing counsel to notify (or gloat)

2.  Tentative will be adopted if no one contests

3.  Do not appear at hearing unless other side tells you it will contest—If opponent shows up at hearing without giving you notice, the court will not permit argument and tentative will be adopted…unless you show up

E.  If you lose, go argue like hell (but expect to lose)

1.  Always be respectful, but tell the Court why the tentative is wrong.

2.  Don’t just repeat what you said in your briefs

3.  Limited to issues raised in papers, but bring a fresh perspective and nuance

V.  Prevailing party prepares order

A.  Check rules for timing, details

B.  Be sure to set deadlines for Answer/Amended Complaint in the order if you want to deviate from standard timing provisions

C.  Might be able to get opponent’s sign-off of proposed order at hearing

The What, Why and How of the Final Status Conference

Jill Kopeiken, Speaker at Pincus Professional Education on the Final Status Conference

Our speakers are always providing our attendees with helpful tips for their practice, and Jill Kopeikin of Kopeikin Law, is no exception. Jill is one of those speakers who provides fantastic handouts for every topic on which she speaks. Jill recently provided a great tip-sheet, about the Final Status Conference (FSC), at our 11th Annual Superior Court Boot Camp (held October 2016 in San Francisco) and we’re posting her tips here.

There are a few things you need to know and think about when it comes to the Final Status Conference.

  • First, they’re discretionary:
    • There is no California statutory requirement to have a final status conference, merely statutory authorization. See Rule 4.112 Cal. Criminal Rules (“The Court may hold a readiness conference…”, (emphasis added)); see also Rule 3.723 Cal. Rules of Court (“The court on its own motion may order, or a party or parties may request, that an additional case management conference be held at any time…”
  • Given that, what is the purpose? And what are the typical uses? 
    • Judges use the final status conferences (sometimes called an “issues” or “trial readiness” conference) to:
      • Assess the likelihood of settlement
      • Ensure trial readiness
      • Give the parties a chance to raise any issues that may impact the efficient flow of trial
      • Confirm whether a previously reserved jury will be required.  (Judges always try to eliminate a jury trial where possible.)
      • Identify disputed/undisputed facts
      • Discuss exhibits that may be admitted by agreement without laying a foundation, and those that require a foundation
      • Explain the Court’s expectations about readiness and trial schedule
      • Hear and adjudicate pretrial motions. For example, in a “Readiness” conferences held in criminal cases common motions resolved before or at the readiness trial include:  Motions to suppress; Pitchess motions.
    •  Counsel may use the status conference to:
      • Learn more about the Court’s trial practices and preferences.
      • Raise issues that may affect the timing or flow of trial (e.g., explaining that expert witness needing to be called out of order, or identifying preliminary issues to be raised, or notify the Court of a waiver of jury).
      • Seek the adjudication of any pretrial motions that may not have been resolved
      • Discuss equipment needs and handling
      • Discuss exhibit marking, submission and handling at trial, if not already done
      • Try to engage settlement discussions without showing weakness
  • And lastly, what about the timing & procedures?
    • The timing and procedures associated with final pretrial or readiness conferences vary greatly by county, expedited/short or long cause, whether limited or unlimited jurisdiction and criminal versus civil.  So do not assume that what you did in San Francisco Superior will be consistent with what you will do in a new case in Orange County.  It will not.
    • May or may not be standard within a jurisdiction as between judges.
    • Typically held in the last two weeks prior to trial.
    • May or may not be coupled with a court-supervised settlement conference, or these may be held separately.
    • Typically, the exhibits, motions in limine, issues varying trial order or scope, disputes about significant issues that may impact trial scope, order or timing, will be resolved at or before the final pretrial conference.

Jill’s law firm, GCA Law Partners, publishes its own blog with some interesting articles. You can find that blog here.

We hope you’ve found this list helpful and we encourage you to email us, or comment below, if you’d like more tips like these or have any questions.

Want to know more about litigation? You can find upcoming programs and audio packages for past litigation boot camps at these links: