By Susan C. Husher
My one wish has always been to know the lyrics to every song ever written so that I could sing along as loud as I wanted and not be fearful of singing wrong or made-up words. I always thought how marvelous it would be to instinctively know the lines of every verse and chorus. Now, after a 34-year career in Civil Litigation, I have a new wish: To know by heart every Local Rule in every California state court! I know – that sounds crazy – but oh, how much easier my life would be if I knew all those local rules off-hand, without pause.
The following is a very small snippet of local rules particular to a few Northern California counties, which I have found especially helpful to attempt to memorize. Every time I’m asked to “reserve a hearing date?” or “What days are discovery motions heard and in what department?” I can turn to my list of Quirks and Irks for the answer without having to go through the tenuous task of reading through the local rules for that particular county. I hope you find this helpful as well.
SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
The Civil Division of the San Francisco Superior Court is a self-calendaring court. Reservations are not required prior to selecting a hearing date. For Law and Motion: All limited and unlimited jurisdiction matters are heard in Department 302 at 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Discovery Motions are heard in Department 301 at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Friday. You select your own hearing date and submit it on the moving papers, however, the date may be changed by the filing clerk if the date selected is unavailable, so set your hearing far enough out to ensure an available date with the court. Of note, the word “DISCOVERY’ must be typed in capital letters on the title page of all papers relating to motions heard in the Discovery Department. Such papers should not be combined with papers relating to motions to be heard in other departments.
SFSC mandates in-person appearances for all Order to Show Cause hearings. Telephonic appearance is no longer an option for an OSC as of August 30, 2022, and failure to appear may result in sanctions. However, if you file a responsive declaration to the OSC 20 days before the hearing, the court will issue a case management order prior to the hearing and obviate an appearance.
To contest a tentative ruling, you must send an email to the court at firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to all other parties stating, without argument, the portion(s) of the tentative ruling that the party contests. (SF Local Rule 8.3 (D)). Of note, if you are the prevailing party, and not contesting the tentative ruling, you are required to prepare a proposed order repeating verbatim the substantive portion of the tentative ruling – and if you are appearing at the hearing remotely, the proposed order must be sent to the court by email to email@example.com, prior to the hearing. If you wait to submit the proposed order until after the hearing, it can take weeks to get the order signed.
This court wants hard copy courtesy copies! Pursuant to Local Rule 2.7(B), you are required to send a courtesy copy in paper to the judge of any document that requires court review, action, or signature, with the exception of ex-parte papers. These courtesy copies should be sent directly to the judge’s department and are due no later than 1:30 p.m. the next business day after the documents are e-filed. Courtesy copies should be delivered via messenger to ensure timely delivery.
All efilings must be filed through any court-approved Vendor. However, only File & ServeXpress can be used for the following Designated Cases: Asbestos, Complex Litigation, Probate, Family Law Dissolution, and Appellate Division Misdemeanor proceedings.
San Francisco is one of the few courts where I have found a direct email for efiling support. That email is Sfefiling@sftc.org Keep this handy – you’ll thank me later!
ALAMEDA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
Alameda requires a reservation, and all moving papers must have the reservation number in the caption. The use of the Court Reservation System (CRS) is now mandated for civil courtrooms within the Alameda County Superior Court. Parties with a case assigned to a department, are directed to utilize CRS to make and manage their reservations, within the parameters set by the courtrooms. If an appropriate reservation is not available on the public portal, a party may contact the clerk of the department in which the motion is to be set with regard to reserving a hearing date.
You must first register for a user account with the eCourt Public Portal on the Alameda County Superior Court website, which provides the public with online access to civil case records through a secure web server. Currently, the portal provides information about General Civil and Small Claims cases. To use any function on this site you must register for a user account. Once you have an account, the eCourt Public Portal provides:
- Reservation System (CRS) – Use to make and manage court date reservations.
- Searches – Use to find case and party information. You can also access images of documents that can be downloaded and printed for a fee and half page preview of the document is available.
- Direct Calendaring – Use to view Direct Calendaring Case Information
- Civil Complex – Use to view Civil Complex Case Information
- Alternative Dispute Resolution – Using a mediator to reach a mutually acceptable confidential resolution to a case.
Once you make a reservation for a hearing, confirmation of the reservation must be attached to the Notice of the moving papers. It is also mandatory that represented parties must participate in electronic filing (e-filing) using a court-approved electronic service provider (EFSP).
Unless other service is required by law or court order, anyone who consents to participate in e-filing must serve and accept service electronically. (Rule 3.27)
Additional requirements include that documents must be e-filed in a searchable PDF format, and mandatory courtesy-copy requirements under local rule 3.30(c) apply to all e-filings. For regular motions, such delivery must be made by noon the court day after the paper is filed, lodged, or otherwise submitted. For in limine motions or matters on which the hearing will be two court days or fewer from filing, the courtesy copies shall be delivered the same day as filing. Any courtesy copy that would otherwise be due on a non-court day is instead due on the next court day.
Law and Motion matters are heard in Department 511 in any case that is not assigned to a judge for all purposes or all pretrial purposes under these rules.
Discovery Motions: Unless otherwise authorized by the court, discovery meet and confer obligations require an in-person, telephonic, or video conference between parties. If a resolution is not reached, an Informal Discovery Conference (“IDC”) with the court must be requested and either held or denied before a party may obtain a reservation number for the filing of any discovery-related motion, protective order, or order to quash. To schedule an IDC, parties must contact the clerk of the assigned department by email, with a copy to all parties. Unless otherwise authorized by the court, the requesting party must file and serve an IDC declaration limited to three pages that must summarize the meet and confer efforts and the disputed discovery. A courtesy copy of the IDC declaration must be emailed or delivered to the assigned department at least three court days before the IDC. The responding party must file and serve an IDC response limited to three pages briefly summarizing the party’s position. A courtesy copy of the IDC response must be emailed or delivered to the assigned department at least one court day before the IDC.
SANTA CLARA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
Santa Clara County sets their own hearing dates; you don’t get to choose – so be prepared to be flexible and wait a long time! Pre-trial motions, including discovery motions, are heard in the department of the case management judge, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 a.m. To schedule a hearing, you must file and serve your moving papers, and leave the hearing date blank. The clerk will review and either reject or accept them for filing. If accepted, the papers will be returned filed but without a hearing date assigned. The calendar clerk will eventually schedule the motion for hearing – it can take 6 to 8 weeks to get your hearing date – so plan ahead! The clerk will NOT notify you of the hearing date; you must continually check the court’s website for the date; then file and serve an Amended Notice with the hearing date on it. There is no leave for not serving an amended notice; failure to do so will lead to a continuance of the motion or the motion being ordered off calendar by the Court. It is not necessary to refile all the moving papers, just the Notice. You are also not permitted to contact the clerk regarding the status of your hearing date; you simply have to wait. (Local Rule 8).
Santa Clara does not accept proposed orders with moving papers before a hearing on a regularly-noticed motion unless ordered by the Court (or if otherwise required by applicable statute or Rule of Court, such as motions to be relieved as counsel, orders on objections to evidence in summary judgment motions, etc.), and may reject your entire filing if a proposed order is submitted when you file your moving papers. Proposed Orders should only be submitted AFTER a hearing, and must be attached to a Proposed Order Cover Sheet (EFS-020); electronically lodged and at the same time a version of the proposed order in a fully editable word-processing format (preferably MS Word and definitely not PDF) to the department judge. When submitting proposed orders after hearing to a department email box, the subject line of the email must include the case number, case name, and hearing date (Local Rule 16)
All Law & Motion hearings are remote – through MS Teams – and the link to each department is changed on the first of each month (with the exception of Department 20, which uses Zoom).
SACRAMENTO AND YOLO COUNTIES SUPERIOR COURTS
Both Sacramento and Yolo Counties have particular Local Rules that can cause a motion to be continued due to defective notice. According to these Local Rules, all noticed motions and demurrers in the designated civil departments shall include the following information in the notice:
Sacramento County Local Rule 1.06
“Pursuant to Local Rule 1.06 (A), the court will make a tentative ruling on the merits of this matter by 2:00 p.m., the court day before the hearing. The complete text of the tentative rulings for the department may be downloaded from the court’s website. If the party does not have online access, they may call the dedicated phone number for the department as referenced in the local telephone directory between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the court day before the hearing and receive the tentative ruling. If you do not call the court and the opposing party by 4:00 p.m. the court day before the hearing, no hearing will be held.”
Yolo County Local Rule 11.2
“Pursuant to Local Rule 11.2, the court will issue a tentative ruling on the merits of the matter by 3:00 p.m. on the court day before the hearing. The tentative rulings are available by phone at (530)406-6806 and on the Court’s website after 3:00 p.m. The tentative ruling shall become the ruling of the court, unless a party desiring to be heard so advises the courtroom clerk of the designated department no later than 4:00 p.m. on the court day preceding the hearing, and further advises the courtroom clerk that such party has notified the other party(s) of its intention to appear.”
Yolo County also specifies a dress policy in Local Rule 4.3: “All persons who appear in any courtroom shall dress appropriately. The following shall not be worn in court: sunglasses, hats, shorts, tank tops, or any other attire inconsistent with the traditional dignity of the court.”
Sacramento County does not offer an Electronic Filing option for Civil matters. All documents must be counter-filed, so be aware of your deadline for getting documents to your Vendor. Hearing dates must be reserved in advance by contacting the department clerk.
I hope that the above information is helpful and useful to at least some of you. If you personally know of any Quirks or Irks from the Superior Court of the county where you are working, please send them along!
Categorized in: Legal Procedure
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