Jury trials are available in most cases that don’t involve equitable issues, i.e., for issues of fact in cases seeking recovery of specific real or personal property, money claimed due on a contract, damages for breach of contract, and damages for injuries. CCP §592.
A jury trial isn’t available when adjudication of the equitable issues is dispositive of the legal issues or the case is exclusively for equitable relief.
Consider demanding a jury trial whenever your client is seeking a lot of money in damages (unless you’ve got a particularly unsympathetic client who won’t make a good impression on the jury).
To be on the safe side, make a jury demand if there’s any chance at all that you’re going to want a jury trial. See CCP §631(c)(4). You can always waive it later.
California law doesn’t require any particular form of a jury trial demand. You can demand a jury trial in any of the following ways:
- orally, on the record, when the case is first set for trial, e.g., at the case management conference;
- by marking the appropriate item in the mandatory Case Management Statement, which is filed and served before the case management conference;
- in a separate document, drafted on pleading paper and entitled Demand for Jury Trial;
- as required by local rule in status questionnaires or other documents; or
- by noticed motion (if you don’t have a right to a jury trial).
Beware that not marking the appropriate item or affirmatively stating “no” in your mandatory Case Management Statement may waive jury trial unless you make an oral demand on the record at the case management conference.
But don’t worry, all is not lost if you waive: the trial court has discretion to allow a jury trial even after a party has waived it, on such terms as court decides are just. CCP §631(e). So if you waive jury trial, and then change your mind, make a noticed motion as soon as possible!
And be ready to pony up. Once you demand a jury trial, you’ll have to deposit advance jury fees with the clerk or judge at least 25 calendar days before the initial trial date (5 days in unlawful detainer actions). CCP §631(b).
CEB offers excellent guidance on obtaining a jury trial as well as many other pretrial procedures in California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial, chap 2. And CEB’s Preparing for Trial (Action Guide) takes you step-by-step through all aspects of trial preparation.
Related CEB blog posts:
- Tell It to the Judge: No Right to Jury Trial in State Income Tax Refund Action
- Jury Trials Move to the Fast Lane
- Timeline to Trial
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