by Dan Glass
On March 23, 2018, the Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association (CCTLA) hosted an annual presentation by Presiding Judge David De Alba and Assistant Presiding Judge David Abbott at the SCBA office. The two jurists touched on the usual subjects: trials, settlement conferences, the daily running of the civil division of the Sacramento County judiciary, and the new courthouse to be built in the future.
Sacramento County is considered a “medium” size county, not a Los Angeles or San Francisco, but also not Glenn or Yuba County. Although not back the pre-recession funding level, the court is doing well. The court has approval for 63 judicial officers, but only 61 positions are filled. The court has only one probate judge, but based on population, it could (should) have three.
The good news for those who try civil cases is that Sacramento remains a court where it is highly likely you get a judge and courtroom on the date set for trial. Judge De Alba, like his predecessors over the past five years, makes it a priority not to have the litigants show up for the first day of trial only to find themselves “continued” to some future date months away. There is some “trailing” of cases for a day or two, but the Sacramento court remains one where there is better than a 95% – 98% chance of getting to trial on the date set – so be prepared.
Judge De Alba wondered why cases were only set for trials to commence on Mondays or Tuesdays. The judges are investigating whether it would be workable to have cases set to commence trial on other days of the week.
Judge De Alba stressed that Department 47 will not accept ex-parte requests to continue trial for cases set for trial eight or more weeks out. Those requests for a continuance will be placed on the normal motion calendar of the court.
The court has been reducing the ±1,700 stale cases in the system, and this remains a priority for Judges De Alba and Abbott. They are reviewing the cases and issuing Orders to Show Cause to determine the status of the cases. The backlog has been reduced to less than 600.
Finally, with regard to that new courthouse that every Presiding Judge has worked so hard to make happen, Sacramento County was one of five counties in the state’s budget for courthouses. One way to get the construction moving has become the issuance of Lease Revenue Bonds for financing. Sacramento County has acquired the land and has completed plans. However, even if everything goes as planned, it is likely that a new courthouse will not become a reality until 2022 – which really is not that far away.