Civil Litigation Legal Topics New Legal Developments

New Year, New Laws for Litigators

464956543Did you keep up with the onslaught of legislative developments affecting litigation this year? Don’t worry, here’s a list of some key changes every California litigator needs to know.

  • Want to use a peremptory challenge? Think again. This list of prohibited bases for using a peremptory challenge is getting longer. Effective January 1, 2016, you can’t use a peremptory challenge based on any characteristic listed or defined in Govt C §11135, which effectively adds ethnic group identification, age, genetic information, and disability to the list of prohibited categories. See CCP §231.5, as amended by Stats. 2015, ch 115, AB 87.
  • “Electronic signature” defined and extended to the courts. A new law defines an “electronic signature” as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the electronic record.” Got that? And soon courts and judicial officers will be allowed to sign on the electronic dotted line. CCP §§17(3), 34, as amended by Stats. 2015, ch 32, AB 432 (effective January 1, 2016).
  • Expedited Jury Trials are here to stay (at least until 2019). Effective January 1, 2016, Expedited Jury Trial procedures are modified to give each party a couple more hours—up to five—to complete voir dire and present its case. And Expedited Jury Trials will be mandatory in limited civil cases starting July 1, 2016. Not coincidentally, the Legislature directed the Judicial Council to issue new rules and forms related to Expedited Jury Trials by that date. Another date to keep in mind: The provisions on mandatory expedited jury trials expire on January 1, 2019. See CCP §§630.03, 630.11, 630.20-630.30, as amended and added by Stats. 2015, ch 330, AB 555.
  • To the winner go the interpreter costs. The costs that a prevailing party may recover under CCP §1032 will soon include the fees of an interpreter used at the deposition of a party or witness who doesn’t speak English. CCP §1033.5(a)(3)(B), as amended by Stats. 2015, ch 90, AB 1002 (effective January 1, 2016).
  • No ruling from the judge on evidentiary objections to an MSJ? No problem. A big break to judges and attorneys: Counsel will no longer have to get an explicit ruling on each evidentiary objection filed with a summary judgment or summary adjudication motion under CCP §437c to preserve those objections for appeal. The court will only need to rule on evidentiary objections that are material to its ruling on the motion. CCP §437c(q), added by Stats. 2015, ch 345, AB 1141 (effective January 1, 2016).
  • The summary adjudication amendment is back. The 2011 amendment to CCP §437c that permitted a motion for summary adjudication of a legal issue or claim for damages that doesn’t completely dispose of a cause of action, affirmative defense, or issue of duty is back after a one-year hiatus. See CCP §437c(t), added by Stats. 2015, ch 345, AB 1141 (effective January 1, 2016).
  • You’ll have to disclose when your client chooses the court reporting service. Deposition notices will soon have to disclose whether the party noticing the deposition (or a third party financing the litigation) has a contractual relationship with, or even just directed the use of, the particular deposition officer or court reporting agency recording the deposition. CCP §2025.220(a)(8), as amended by Stats. 2015, ch 346, AB 1197 (effective January 1, 2016).
  • Meet and confer before you demur. A new law requires counsel to meet and confer at least 5 days before a responsive pleading is due to figure out whether they can agree to the filing of an amended pleading that would resolve the objections, and thus the need to demur. CCP §431, added by Stats. 2015, ch 418, SB 383 (effective January 1, 2016). This bill also limits the number of demurrers and amended pleadings allowed.
  • Make a §998 offer, recover expert fees. CCP §998 has been amended to clarify that a plaintiff or defendant that recovers a more favorable judgment at trial or arbitration than the offer to compromise is only entitled to recover expert witness fees that arose after the offer. CCP §998(c)-(d), amended by Stats. 2015, ch 345, AB 1141 (effective January 1, 2016).

Get more on these developments as well as in-depth and practical guidance on procedures from the beginning of the litigation process through appeals in CEB’s collection of civil litigation practice titles. And don’t miss CEB’s upcoming program Civil Litigation: A Year in Review in various Live locations and on Livecast in January 2016.

Check out all our civil litigation posts on CEBblog™.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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