Governor signs bill aimed at court efficiency

A court efficiency bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Monday will allow attorneys to produce much shorter discovery outlines for issues in dispute and gives additional time for judges to rule on new trial motions.

The bill, AB 2230, is a rare meeting of the minds between the Consumer Attorneys of California and the California Defense Counsel, sponsors of the bill.

Typically, a motion in a discovery dispute can be a laborious process for all parties involved because it requires filing separate statements under the California Rules of Court.

“So much detail is required in these separate statements that they often amount to anywhere from fifty pages to entire reams of paper. This process is often tedious and ultimately has no benefit for judges,” the Consumer Attorneys of California said in a statement.

The bill will allow for a party to file a concise outline of a discovery request instead of a separate statement.

A second component of the bill extends the time to vacate or seek a new trial from 50 to 75 days. This was aimed to address a frequent complaint by defense counsel that the 60-day deadline was hard to meet. It also gives judges the ability to grant extensions in order to more efficiently navigate through the new trial process.

Last month, the full Assembly passed the bill by a 78-1 vote. It was authored by Mark Berman, D-Menlo Park, and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-El Dorado Hills, co-sponsored the bill. Both men are attorneys.

In May, Berman told the Assembly Judiciary Committee that the bill was in response to pressures overworked courts have placed on civil attorneys.

“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 committee.

The two attorney groups usually sponsor a bill each year. Another bill authored by Kiley, AB 2651, proposed an extension deadline for summary judgment motions and new requirements for expert witnesses to produce materials ahead of scheduled testimony. That bill never received a hearing.