MICHAEL D. MARCUS’S MEDIATION MESSAGE NO. 118
EXPEDITED JURY TRIALS ARE MANDATORY FOR CASES UNDER $25,000
The voluntary Expedited Jury Trial Act (Code of Civil Procedure §§ 630.01 – 630.10), in effect for the last five years, is now permanent, as of January 1, 2016. More importantly, the Act is mandatory as of July 1, 2016 (until January 1, 2019, unless otherwise extended by the legislature) where the amount in controversy does not exceed $25,000, subject to the following nine exceptions: punitive damages are sought; damages in excess of insurance policy limits are sought; a party’s insurer is providing a defense subject to a reservation of rights; the case involves a claim reportable to a governmental entity; the case involves a moral turpitude claim that may affect an individual’s licensing; there is a claim of intentional conduct; one of the parties has filed a pleading that changes the jurisdictional classification from limited to unlimited; there is a claim for attorney’s fees, unless those fees are pursuant to a contract or, lastly, the court finds good cause not to require an expedited trial. Additionally, mandatory trials are not available in forcible retainer or unlawful detainer actions. (See §§ 630.20 et seq.)
The procedures for mandatory expedited trials are similar to those for voluntary expedited trials except that verdicts in mandatory trials are appealable, each side is permitted four peremptory challenges instead of the three for voluntary trials and each side has five rather than three hours to try its case. The following are the procedures for both voluntary and mandatory expedited jury trials, except where noted in italics:
- Assignment of judges is at the discretion of the presiding judge and precludes temporary judges requested by the parties. (Rule 3.1546.)
- A consent order consisting of a waiver of right to appeal and post-trial jury motions (e.g., directed verdict; set aside the verdict; inadequate or excessive damages) shall be submitted by the parties to the court at least 30 days before the scheduled trial date. (CCP § 630.08; Rule 3.1547(a)(1).) The order, which shall be signed by all parties and their counsel, includes representations that the parties and their insurers have been informed of the applicable rules and procedures. (CCP § 630.03(a),(e).) The consent order is binding on the parties absent a later stipulation of all of the parties or a court order that good cause exists for the action not to proceed as an expedited jury trial. (CCP § 630.03(b),(f).) Pursuant to §§ 630.20(d) and 630.26(b), judgments in mandatory expedited trials are appealable.
- Modifications of the Act’s rules and provisions are permitted if agreed to by all parties and the court. (CCP §§ 630.02(a); 630.23(d); Rule 3.1547(b).)
- Exchange 25 days before trial witness lists, exhibits (excluding witnesses and exhibits for impeachment or rebuttal), copies of recorded materials, lists of depositions, motions in limine, proposed instructions, proposed jury verdict forms and juror questionnaires. (Rule 3.1548(b).) Failure to serve the exhibits in advance is grounds for their preclusion at trial unless good cause can be shown for the failure. (Rule 3.1548(e).)
- Motions in limine shall be filed 20 days before trial. (Rule 3.1548(d).)
- A pretrial conference will be held 15 days before trial. (Rule 3.1548(f).) Matters to be addressed include objections to previously submitted documentary, jury questionnaires, jury instructions, special verdict forms and the allocation of time for each party’s case.
- Subpoenas and notices to appear to secure the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents at trial shall be in accordance with the CCP. (CCP § 630.25(c).)
- High/low agreements governing damages, which are not disclosed to the jury, are permitted but not required. (CCP § 630.01(b); Rule 3.1547(a)(2).)
- Voir dire is limited to one hour, with 15 minutes for the judicial officer and 15 minutes for each side. (Rule 3.1549.) Each side has three peremptory challenges, with the possibility that one additional challenge may be granted to each side in multiparty cases. (CCP § 630.04(b).) In mandatory expedited trials, the parties have five hours, including voir dire, to complete their cases. (Section 630.23(a).) In mandatory cases, each side shall have four peremptory challenges, unless the court permits an additional challenge in cases with more than two sides. If there are more than two parties in a case and more than two sides, the parties may request one additional peremptory challenge each, which is to be granted by the court as the interests of justice may require. (Section 630.20(c).)
- The jury is composed of eight persons, unless the parties agree to fewer jurors. There are no alternates. (CCP § 630.04(a).) In mandatory trials, the jury is composed of 8 jurors and one alternate unless the parties have agreed to fewer jurors. (CCP § 630.23(b).)
- Presentation of the case is limited to three hours per side, including opening statement, cross-examination and closing argument, unless the court finds good cause for additional time. (Rule of Court 3.1550.) The use of stipulations and evidentiary summaries are encouraged. (Rules 3.1551(a), (c); 3.1552(a).) In mandatory cases, the parties have five hours, including voir dire, to complete their respective cases. (CCP § 630.23(a).)
- Traditional rules of evidence apply unless the parties stipulate otherwise. (CCP § 630.06(a).) Privileges affecting confidentiality cannot be limited by stipulations. (CCP § 630.06(b).)
- The jury verdict is binding, subject to any written high/low agreement or other stipulations between the parties. (CCP § 630.07(a).) A vote of six of the eight jurors is required, unless the parties stipulate otherwise. (CCP § 630.07(b).) A jury may deliberate as long as needed. (CCP § 630.05.)
- Costs and attorney’s fees statutes and rules that apply in limited civil cases, apply as well in mandatory expedited jury trials, unless the parties stipulate otherwise. (CCP §620.27.)
- Post-trial motions and appeals, in voluntary expedited trials, are limited to those to correct a judgment for clerical error, to enforce a judgment and for costs and attorney’s fees (CCP § 630.09(c)) or for a new trial because of alleged misconduct of the judicial officer or jury or corruption, fraud or other undue means employed in the proceedings. (CCP § 630.09.)
Judge Michael D. Marcus (Ret.)
ADR Services, Inc.
1900 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 250
Los Angeles, California 90067
Copyright Michael D. Marcus, January 2016