Civil Division Update
Our most notable development in the Civil Division this year has been the unfortunate (for us!) retirement of Judge Barry Goode this May. Judge Goode presided over the Court’s Complex Litigation Department since 2011 (with a two-year “respite” in 2013 and 2014 to serve as Presiding Judge of the court). He also was an admired Family Law Judge for three years, and served in the Richmond Courthouse for three years before that. He is enjoying time and travel with his wife, but we have persuaded him to sit on assignment here in the same courthouse in a few instances, and hope to continue to do so. Judge Goode has long been known for his intelligence, hard work, and calm demeanor (and baked goods for jurors). He served as Presiding Judge through a time of extreme “fiscal challenges” for the Court. He is greatly missed.
Since then, I have taken over as the complex litigation judge, and my spot handling half civil cases and half probate cases has been taken over by Judge Susanne Fenstermacher. Judge Fenstermacher has been a member of the Court since 2005, and has served in virtually every type of judicial assignment in our county. Combined with her experience practicing civil, family, and probate law, her intellect makes her a perfect fit for the assignment.
Another change in store for the Civil Division is the retirement of Judith Craddick at the end of the year. Judge Craddick was appointed to the Court in 1998, and has served in many assignments, most recently the Civil Division for the last several years. Her insight and breadth of legal knowledge will be difficult to replace. But the good news is that when Judge Jill Fannin completes her term as Presiding Judge at the end of the year, she will take Judge Craddick’s spot hearing civil cases. Judge Fannin is eager to get back to hearing cases again.
We continue to rely on the invaluable assistance of the bar in three important ways. First, most discovery motions are considered initially through the Discovery Facilitator Program set forth in Local Rule 3.300. Second, we continue to use volunteer “settlement mentors,” who meet with the parties on the day of trial (or the day of the issue conference),and often are able to resolve even the most difficult matters. Finally, when our extraordinary Commissioner Lowell Richards is not available, we are able to use volunteer pro tem judges who preside over civil harassment hearings, unlawful detainers and small claims matters. All of us at the court greatly appreciate the work of our volunteers.
In some good news, newly available funding has enabled us to obtain interpreter services for civil cases. If your client needs an interpreter, you should make the request as soon after you appear in the case by filing form “MC 300 Interpreter Request.” (The form is available on the Court’s website.) This service also applies to witnesses, so it is no longer necessary to bring your own interpreter for a witness if you make the proper request. If the language in question is Spanish, we generally can cover the matter with the court’s excellent staff of interpreters. For other languages, advance notice is important because interpreters can be more difficult to obtain.
A final development is the implementation of the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Jameson v. Desta (2018) 5 Cal. 5th 594. In that decision, the Court held that in a civil case in which a party has obtained a fee waiver, that party is entitled to a waiver of the official court reporter attendance fees. This applies, even if the Court does not ordinarily provide court reporters, in civil cases (as our court does not) as long as it permits parties who can afford court reporters to bring them. The Court did not expressly address payment for the production of a transcript, nor the precise mechanism for requesting a reporter. At this point, however, we are providing court reporters on request in cases with a fee waiver.