Well, here we are again...Due to lack of sufficient funding for our beleaguered Superior Courts we're seeing more and more closures and reductions in hours.
We've recently updated our page with items for Contra Costa, El Dorado, Plumas, Santa Clara and Sierra Superior courts. Click here to take a look, especially if you have a court filing in one of those jurisdictions!
Santa Barbara Courthouse
(Lili Daniel snapped this phone last weekend while she was in town attending the Santa Barbara Paralegal Association's 5th Annual MCLE Conference)
iPads and tablets - it seems like just about everyone has one these days. It's therefore only fitting that this technology is finding its way into courtrooms, and specifically into the hands of judges. Tablets give judges the freedom to review briefs from anywhere, not just within the confines of chamber walls. In fact, a 2012 survey indicated that 58% of federal judges were using an iPad. If you are filing in federal court, you are most likely utilizing the electronic filing system, and because your brief may be read on an iPad, perhaps you should be thinking about how to make your documents tablet friendly. Lawyerist.com posted an article recently highlighting some tips to write better briefs for tablets. Some of those tips include:
Use hyperlinks. Hyperlinks allow the judge to jump directly to the authority you are citing. The 5th Circuit court loves hyperlinks so much, in fact, that they have developed an application that will automatically covert citations into hyperlinks! Other courts have not been as proactive, but always check your local rules. Hyperlinks may not just be a preference, it might be a requirement in your particular court.
It may take some getting used to, but as technology improves the legal world evolves and adjusts to the times. It only makes sense that the manner in which a brief is written changes with them as well. Have you changed the way you write briefs to accommodate those who view them on a tablet?
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of environmentalist driven bills Tuesday that will regulate groundwater pumping. This is the first time in the history of the state that a series of bills like that has been signed. The bills were signed in light of the drought plaguing California with the intent to hopefully replenish the dwindling water supply.
Californians are using roughly 800 billion gallons of water annually. The water is coming from the aquifers in the Central Valley, where much of the vast land is in fact farmland. Because the area is losing such a significant amount of water, the land is dropping, with parts of the valley subsiding almost a foot each year. Bridges and canals have subsequently suffered damage.
The new laws require local government officials to bring groundwater basins up to sustainable levels. Any water that is taken out must be replenished, and farmers will most likely eventually have to meter the water they pump. In fact, some farmers may be required to stop pumping altogether. This of course has upset many farmers and their representatives, as it will significantly impact their livelihoods. However, Governor Brown hopes that the new laws will lessen the severity of droughts in the future.
“We’re concerned that these hastily written measures may come to be seen as ‘historic’ for all the wrong reasons,” said Paul Wenger, a Modesto almond and walnut farmer who is president of the California Farm Bureau. “I anticipate we’re going to see a significant downsizing of California agriculture.”
The regulations will be implemented slowly. Water agencies aren't required to submit plans to the state until January 2020, and those plans should be designed to achieve sustainability by 2040.
Do you think these new regulations will help or hurt the water crisis in California?
Are you the professional court filing expert in your law office? Do your colleagues come to you because you know the answers? Are you the problem solver? You can be that go-to person and more! It's time to become indispensable to your law firm by mastering the power of One Legal technology. We are introducing our new Instant Expert series that will have your co-workers thinking that you know everything about court filing, process serving, and all things One Legal. This series of short "how-to" guides will not only simplify your day to day work life, it will make you indispensable in your law office.
Our first Instant Expert guide will show you how to check the status of your One Legal order. We offer real time status updates so you will always know what exactly is going on with your court filing, process serve, or document research & retrieval. The next time someone asks you for a status update, you will know just where to find it!
This is just the first of many installments in our series that will make you an Instant Expert when it comes to One Legal.
If you would like to become even more of an expert and are interested in further training, you can sign up for any of our free, MCLE accredited courses! We have a diverse curriculum that covers everything from Process Serving to eFiling and eService in Orange and San Diego Counties, as well as in the state of Texas. We also keep you up to date on court closures, reduction in clerk's hours and other pertinent court news.
Do not hesitate to contact our Training team with any questions! We are always here to help.
We've recently updated our page with items for Los Angeles and Shasta Superior courts. Click here to take a look, especially if you have a court filing in one of those jurisdictions!
New San Jose Courthouse Under Construction (August 14th)
As we previously posted, the State Bar is strictly enforcing their compliance rules and this year, they have conducted the largest audit to date. Everyone wants to avoid the dreaded audit, but should you be asked to provide proof of your MCLE hours, the Bar has provided some helpful tips that might help make the process a little less painful. You can read their FAQs in their entirety here. We have highlighted some of the more helpful hints below:
If you are unable to find all of your certificates, contact your provider immediately for a copy. If you took one of our MCLE accredited courses, contact Brooke Greene. She will be happy to provide you with your certificate!
If you attended a self-study course, you most likely were not given a certificate. Your hours still must be logged on the online summary log, which you can access by logging into your state bar profile. You'll see a message that states you have been selected for the audit and a link will be provided to access your log. Make sure that the activities you report are approved self-study activities.
You may not submit a certificate with someone else's name on it even if you took the course with that individual. Your certificate must have your name and bar number recorded on it.
If you completed more than the mandatory 25 hours in one compliance period, you may not carry those hours over. Do not submit those extra hours for a different compliance period.
Do not submit receipts in lieu of certificates. Receipts are not proof of completion and will not be accepted by the State Bar.
The State Bar will accept a sign up sheet rather than a certificate only if the attendance record includes the name of the course, course provider, date of activity and the number of MCLE hours given.
The deadline to show proof of compliance is stated on your MCLE Audit Notice. If you fail to submit adequate proof of compliance by the deadline, you will be assessed a $75 penalty for late compliance, and you will receive a Non-Compliance Notice that gives you 60 days to comply. If you do not submit adequate proof of compliance and pay the late fee within that time period, you will be placed on Not Eligible to Practice status until you submit the required proof of compliance, pay the $75 non-compliance fee, and pay an additional $200 reinstatement fee.
County employees are not exempt from MCLE requirements.
After your audit is complete, you must keep your certificate from the provider, a record of self-study that includes the title, provider, credit hours and date of each activity, or proof of exempt status for a year pursuant to Rule 2.73.
Do not ignore your audit! You will be fined and, if you continue to ignore the audit, you could potentially be unable to practice. Contact the State Bar's MCLE Audit Team if you have any questions.
Have you had to endure an MCLE audit?
The Judicial Council approved a recommendation from its Technology Committee on a plan for court technology. The plan provides a road map for technology initiatives and is intended to increase the transparency and accountability of how funds are managed for technology projects in the judicial branch.
“The courts need an updated technology plan in order to better serve the public and our users by keeping the electronic courthouse doors open,” said Judge James E. Herman, advisory member of the Judicial Council and chair of its Technology Committee. “The Chief Justice has made it clear that remote access through technology is a vital part of her 3D access to justice program. These planning documents are a grassroots effort involving 19 trial courts and 3 appellate courts, supported by the Judicial Council's Information Technology staff. The effort has also benefited from input provided by presiding judges, branch stakeholders, and the public.”
This plan approval follows closely on the heels of the disturbing news that clerks in Glenn and Amador counties are overworked and losing their homes because of furloughs and low wages. Although the Judicial Council approved the plan for court technology, it is still stretched incredibly thin and the lack of funding for the program leads many to believe that implementing the project will be problematic. Despite Governor Jerry Brown's repeated comments that courts need to increase their efficiency and the Judicial Council's hope that eFiling will help facilitate that, the outlook remains bleak as the money just isn't there.
"We really are in a zero-sum game here across the board in terms of funding," said Judge James Herman of Santa Barbara, head of the Judicial Council's Technology Committee. He continued, "How do we develop a funding stream for technology? The way we do that is through outreach to our sister branches. So it's going to depend on that outreach to develop a funding source. We realize we need funding, and we have to pursue a course that can convince the other two branches that technology is a necessary efficiency."
This new technology program is taking a different approach from the decommissioned 2012 California Court Case Management System project. The CCMS system was originally designed to connect all 58 superior courts under one uniform software system. The project cost the state $1.9 billion and was only implemented in a handful of trial courts. Orange and San Diego Counties have currently implemented eFiling, hiring us to build upon their CCMS system. The de-funding of the CCMS system brought about much anger and criticism amongst the legal community, with many accusing the state of spending copious amounts of money for a very poorly managed system. The Bureau of State Audits also found that the project was bloated and mismanaged. The newly approved technology project brings together judges, court clerks and IT experts from courts statewide, while allowing local courts to start technology projects on their own or work with other counties without much interference from the AOC.
If you are interested in eFiling in Orange or San Diego County and would like training, sign up today for our free, MCLE accredited classes!
What do you think of the approved technology plan? Is this a step in the right direction?
Orange County Superior Court has released new requirements for Civil and Probate matters.The first change pertains to sealed documents for civil cases. To ensure proper processing of sealed documents, please be sure to select the filing name "Sealed Document" when eFiling a transaction under seal.
Pursuant to California Rules of Court 2.551, documents must clearly state in the caption "Conditionally Under Seal" or "Sealed by Order of the Court (Date)". If you fail to correctly label your document as under seal, your information may be compromised.T
The second change is for Probate matters. Beginning July 1, 2014, all Probate Ex Parte Applications with supporting documents, proof of service and orders must be filed no later than 10:30 a.m. the day before the hearing. When submitting an Ex Parte Application as an eFiling, you must select "Ex Parte" as the lead document name. If you do not do so, your documents may not be considered in a timely fashion.
You can always contact our Training team with any questions you might have! You can also sign up for an Orange County eFiling training if you need further instruction or if you would like to earn MCLE credit. All of our training courses are free of charge!
Another day, another round of bad news for the California Courts. In totally depressing but completely predictable news, Shasta Superior Court announced that it has given out more than a dozen layoff notices. And, surprise surprise, officials state that it is the result of state budget cuts along with a recently enacted law which eliminated "rainy day funds" for trial courts.
KRCR News reported that last week, 14 court employees learned their last day of work will be September 25. This rouned of layoffs along with the layoff of 12 temporary employees before the 2014-15 fiscal year began and the freezing of 18 vacant full-time positions, the total number of positions recently impacted is now 44.
"In the past two fiscal years, where we tried to set aside money to get through the recession, the ability to do that was eliminated as of June 30, 2014," said Shasta County Court Executive Officer Melissa Fowler-Bradley.
Fowler-Bradley also said the layoffs are coming at a time of a rise in criminal cases, which is stretching the court thin and preventing them from effectively handling non-mandatory work.
"We have fewer staff to deal with other case types like small claims matters or family law matters or probate matters or adoptions or all of the other case types we process," Fowler-Bradley said, "I have fewer people in order to serve the public on everything other than criminal."
According to court officials, this latest round of layoffs may just be the beginning. There might be even more jobs lost when the next budget cycle comes around.
Despite hopes that perhaps this fiscal year would produce more money for California courts, it's beginning to look bleak once again. there are talks of furlough days and further layoffs for courts throughout the state. This will lead to longer lines at the courthouse, fewer clerks at the filing counter, and further backlog for your filings.
This news follows on the heels of the Judicial Council's announcement that they will be considering a plan for improving court technology.
How have you been affected by court closures and staff layoffs?
The Judicial Council will consider a recommendation from its Technology Committee on a strategic plan for court technology at its public meeting on August 21–22. If the council approves the proposed plan, it will provide a structure and roadmap for technology initiatives and increase the transparency and accountability of how funds are managed for technology projects in the judicial branch.
The committee received input on the plan from presiding judges, court executive officers, court information officers, the Legislature, and the Governor's administration. It was also posted online for public comment.
This news is timely as One Legal just announced the launch of our OneLegal Labs, which promotes technological innovation and creativity in a changing legal world. The incubator works with technologists, legal industry experts, and creative product engineers to address technology gaps and inefficiencies within law firms and courts.
The Judicial Council's proposed plan includes strategies for gradual implementation and a roadmap for funding this project. Some of the goals of the plan include the following:
Goal 1: Promote the Digital Court
The judicial branch will increase access to the courts, administer timely and efficient justice, gain case processing efficiencies, and improve public safety by establishing a foundation for the Digital Court throughout California. The Digital Court includes a comprehensive set of services for interaction with the courts, and for collaboration with branch justice partners.
Goal 2: Optimize Branch Resources
The judicial branch will maximize the potential and efficiency of its technology resources by fully supporting existing and future required infrastructure and assets, and leveraging branch wide information technology resources through procurement, collaboration, communication, and education.
Goal 3: Optimize Infrastructure
The judicial branch will leverage and support a reliable and secure technology infrastructure. It will ensure continual investment in existing infrastructure and exploration of consolidated and shared computing where appropriate.
Goal 4: Promote Rule and Legislative Changes
The judicial branch will drive modernization of statutes, rules, and procedures to facilitate use of technology in court operations and delivery of court services.
The council’s two-day public business meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Friday, August 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., at the Judicial Council Conference Center, Hiram Johnson State Office Building, Third Floor, Ronald M. George State Office Complex, 455 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco. A live audiocast of the meeting will be on the California Courts website, and the agenda and council reports are posted online.
What type of technology would you like to see the courts begin to implement?