By: Richard H. Glucksman, Jon A. Turigliatto, and David A. Napper
November 24, 2014
The Complex Civil Litigation Program is relatively new as it has only existed in California since 2000. Complex divisions dedicate courtrooms solely for litigation of complex civil cases that require exceptional judicial management including construction defects, antitrust, securities, toxic torts, mass torts, and class actions. Complex civil courtrooms help the trial court operate in a more efficient, expeditious, and effective manner. A complex court reduces costs for litigants by streamlining motion practice and expeditiously resolving discovery disputes.
Not all counties have dedicated complex civil divisions. For those that do, each county has its own local rules, and some complex divisions have their own particular set of rules. The Judicial management of complex cases begins early, and is applied continuously and actively with the idea that final resolution be expedited as much as possible. In focusing on cooperation amongst the parties to achieve these goals, often requiring joint statements to the court and a prohibition on discovery motions until after the parties have formally met-and-conferred on the issues. Moreover, complex cases are centralized and are assigned to one highly skilled Judge for all purposes.
The first six California counties to create a Complex Civil division include Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, and Santa Clara. Riverside County Superior Court is the most recent California County to add a Complex division, effective January 2015.
Riverside county Superior Court’s Complex department consists of ten civil judges, seven of which are in the main courthouse with Riverside. Riverside county expects to consolidate all complex civil litigation into one courtroom by January 2015. Riverside county Judge Sharon Waters state that “[i]t’s been something that I personally have felt has been long overdue” and that “[t]he idea is that put it with one judge and let him or her develop the expertise.” Judge Waters believes “[t]he potential value of establishing a complex litigation courtroom [is that] it allows the judge to focus on the cases full time.”
As of October 2014, Riverside county had about 450 to 500 pending cases designated as complex, over fifty percent (50%) of which involved construction defect matters. The sole Judge who will preside over the complex cases has not yet been named.