In the past, most California superior courts routinely held trial-setting, pretrial, arbitration status, and status conferences. Delay reduction rules put a stop to this practice, consolidating all of these into a comprehensive conference that occurs in the first 180 days after the complaint is filed. Cal Rules of Ct 3.721. And woe to any attorney who comes to the conference unprepared! Take some of the stress out of preparing for your next case management conference by using these four steps.
- Determine the court’s procedure for notice to parties. You need to learn your court’s procedure for giving parties notice of the initial case management conference, which must be given no later than 45 days before the conference unless otherwise dictated by local rules. Cal Rules of Ct 3.722(b).
- Decide whether to appear by telephone. A party may appear at a case management conference by telephone as long as (CCP §367.5):
- The party complies with the requirement to meet and confer before the conference and serves a timely case management statement; and
- The court doesn’t order a personal appearance.
- Prepare for matters to be considered at the conference. Make sure you’re familiar with the case and are prepared to discuss and commit to your client’s position on the issues listed under Cal Rules of Ct 3.724 and 3.727, on which the parties are required to meet and confer.
- Be ready to address your client’s position on subjects on which the court may take action. Make sure you’re fully versed on at least each of these key issues:
- Whether there are any related cases;
- Whether parties named in the complaint have been served, appeared, or been dismissed;
- Whether any additional parties may be added or the pleadings amended;
- Whether, in a limited civil case, the economic litigation procedures under CCP §§90-98 will apply or you intend to make a motion to exempt the case from these procedures;
- Whether any other matters, such as a party’s bankruptcy, may affect the court’s jurisdiction or processing of the case;
- Whether the parties have stipulated to, or the case should be referred to, judicial arbitration or any other form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and the date by which the ADR must be completed;
- Whether an early settlement conference should be scheduled, and on what date;
- Whether discovery has been completed and, if not, when it will be completed;
- What discovery issues are anticipated;
- Whether the case should be bifurcated, or a hearing should be set for a motion to bifurcate under CCP §598;
- Whether there are any cross-complaints that are not ready to be set for trial, and whether they should be severed;
- Whether the case is entitled to any statutory preference and, if so, the statute granting preference;
- Whether jury trial is demanded and, if so, the identity of each party requesting a jury trial;
- The date by which the case will be ready for trial and the available trial dates;
- The estimated length of trial;
- The nature of the injuries;
- The amount of damages, including any special or punitive damages;
- Any additional relief sought;
- Whether there are any insurance coverage issues that may affect the resolution of the case; and
- Any other matters that should be considered by the court or addressed in its case management order.
Get step-by-step guidance all the way to trial in CEB’s Preparing for Trial (Action Guide). For more on the procedures and requirements for case management conferences, turn to CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, chap 40.
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