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 and she is an attendee favorite!  Jill has spoken at many of our annual Superior Court Boot Camps and Federal Court Boot Camps.

For one of our Superior Court Boot Camps, Jill provided a great tip-sheet thoroughly explaining the Final Status Conference (FSC).  If you’d like to take a look at the full contents of our most recent 13th California Superior Court Boot Camp, held in 2018, please click on the link just provided or click here to view our 2019 Superior Court program.

So, there are a few things you need to know and think about when it comes to the Final Status Conference.
Written by Jill Kopeikin of Kopeikin Law

  • 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:
Erik Knepfler