Bill to improve court efficiency approved by state Legislature

The annual court efficiencies bill is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Each year, the Consumer Attorneys of California and the California Defense Counsel sponsor a bill designed to improve how courts operate. This year’s version, AB 2230, passed the full Assembly by a 78-1 vote on Monday.

It contains two main provisions.

First, it would allow one side to file a concise outline of a discovery request, instead of filing a separate statement as currently required under California Rules of Court. This provision will affect motions to compel further responses regarding documents and matters of fact relating to admissibility of documents.

“This change will boost the efficiency of our courts for all concerned by giving judges the option to eliminate vast amounts of extraneous paperwork that can bog down the legal process,” said the consumer attorneys group president, Lee Harris, in an emailed statement. “Instead of a full separate statement, which can gobble reams of paper, attorneys would be able to produce a concise outline of the discovery issues in dispute.”

Second, it would extend the time to file motions to vacate a trial or seek a new trial from 60 days to 75 days. This would address a frequent complaint by defense counsel that the 60-day deadline is sometimes difficult to meet due to other post-trial deadlines.

The bill’s author, Assemblyman Mark Berman, D-Menlo Park, said the bill is a response to the pressures overburdened courts have placed on civil attorneys on both sides.

“The plaintiff and defense bar, two groups that are not always on the same page, have been working together in recent years to identify efficiencies that can benefit all participants,” Berman told the Assembly Judiciary Committee in May.

This year’s bill was also notably bipartisan. Berman repeatedly thanked his co-author, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-El Dorado Hills, for his work on AB 2230. Both men are attorneys.

The extension of the time to file motions was drawn from Kiley’s AB 2651, which never received a hearing. That bill also contained a pair of more controversial proposals: an extension of the deadline for motions for summary judgment, and new requirements for expert witnesses to produce materials ahead of their scheduled testimony.

“There were a variety of ideas kicking around that we could not come to agreement on,” said Mike Belote, the lobbyist for the California Defense Counsel.