By: Richard H. Glucksman and David A. Napper
September 30, 2016
Complex Civil Litigation Programs have been utilized in California for over fifteen (15) years. Complex cases require more intensive judicial management, and include claims such as construction defects, mass torts, class actions, antitrust, securities claims, and toxic torts. The Presiding Judge in a department dedicated to managing highly complex cases is tasked with providing exceptional and individualized judicial management, expedited resolution of complex issues, and cost and resource efficiencies.
The creation of the department is the result of increased levels of funding received by the Court. With its creation of a Complex Civil Court system, San Bernardino joins numerous other counties throughout California – including, but not limited to: Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco, and Santa Clara – which already handle complex civil matters. San Bernardino Superior Court is the most recent Court to implement a Complex Litigation Department, effective September 6, 2016.
According to a study performed by the San Bernardino Superior Court, seventy-six (76) percent of the County’s complex civil cases involved either construction defect or employment claims. Currently, complex filings are distributed among eleven (11) unlimited civil departments. That will no longer be the case. All new files, deemed provisionally complex by the initiating party, will be filed directly with the complex civil department. Existing complex cases will be handed on a case by case basis and may be referred by the assigned Judge to be considered for treatment as a complex civil department case.
The San Bernardino Superior Court website now has a “Complex Litigation” section under the “Civil” category on its home page. Clicking on the “Complex Litigation” link immediately reveals a nine (9) page document entitled “Guidelines for the Complex Litigation Program.” The document gives the reader basic information as well as detailed requirements, obligations, and expectations with respect to the program, including but not limited to, the following topics: the definition of complex litigation, description of cases assigned to the Complex Litigation Department, referrals to the Complex Litigation Department by other departments, stay of discovery pending the initial case management conference, case management orders, management of class actions, formatting of pleadings, discovery, and trial.
Judge David Cohn in Department S-26, has been selected as the sole Judge handling the complex civil department in San Bernardino. Judge Cohn will see all construction defect cases, class actions, Private Attorney General Act claims, and Judicial Council Coordinated Proceedings. Judge Cohn has been on the bench for thirteen (13) years and handled a number of complex cases over the last six (6) years. Prior to taking the bench, Judge Cohn practiced for sixteen (16) years as a civil litigator in commercial litigation, public entity defense, and insurance defense. When asked to offer advice or reminders for attorneys appearing in his courtroom, Judge Cohn has been quoted as saying: “Be on time or let the clerk know by telephone that you’ll be late.”
With a recently renovated Courthouse and a new litigation program, San Bernardino Superior Court is making incredible strides to benefit its community and residents. We expect the Complex Civil Litigation Program and Judge Cohn to have a positive impact on the efficient resolution of complex cases, just make sure to be on time.