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How to Get Something Done in California Courts

You know those slow motion replays they do in football games? What if the entire game was played in slow motion? That’d be pretty boring and tedious to watch. Welcome to our court system.

Nearly every court system in California has been hampered by the severe budget cuts that have occurred in the last two years. Approximately $500 million was taken from the court budgets state-wide—that’s half a billion dollars! In response, the courts have had to downsize, consolidate, and close many courtrooms. That means a case that might take 12 to 18 months to reach trial now takes twice that long.

That also means your entire case now takes place in slow motion from start to finish in the court system. Not every case takes “forever” to obtain resolution, but most of them do. In part, that is due to our Constitution right to Due Process, which means the Court must hold an evidentiary trial and allow all parties a fair chance to present their evidence before a decision is made. It takes time to assemble all the necessary evidence in a way that will make it admissible in court (not every piece of information makes it into evidence).

And it takes time for the Court to find time on its over-booked calendars to give you a trial date. In fact, most courtrooms in California intentionally overbook their trial dates, setting up to six or seven trials for the same week. One courtroom cannot hear six or seven trial at a time, they can one hear one. But the Court’s know that many cases settle or the trial dates are continued, so they overbook what they have. But if you show up for trial on a week when three or four other cases are also ready to go, somethings has got to give. Your trial is continued and you wait even longer.

It is not that our court system is a bad system, in fact it is one of the best in the world. We just do not have enough resources to manage the shear volume of people in California. Much like our clogged freeways, our court system has finite resources, and yet no ability to turn people away once the system is full. Cases must be added, one on top of the next, no matter how full the system becomes.

To navigate our busy court system takes patience, perseverance, and preparation. That means you have to do everything you can do to properly prepare your case for trial. Serve your discovery, obtain your evidence, take your depositions and line up your expert so that when you are before the judge on your next hearing you can confidently ask for a trial date. You must be patient as the judge may not give you a trial date if the other party states that he or she is not ready. But that only happens a few times before the court will set a trial. Once you have a trial date, you have to defend it to the bitter end. Only when you are not able to get necessary evidence before trial should a trial date be voluntarily continued.

Lastly, you must persevere. Most parties prevail at trial or a favorable settlement only after being able to outlast the other side. It takes time, money, and a emotional toll to outlast an opponent.