A New Twist On An Old Way To Waive Jury Trial in California

Because my finger is ever tapped to the thumping pulse of civil procedure in our fine state, it only took me slightly over a month to realize there’s a new and improved way to lose your right to a trial by jury.  Still, I’m guessing that this will be news to some, hence the post.

Senate Bill 1021 was apparently signed and has already been made effective in at least some California counties (at least San Francisco and Los Angeles).  This amends Code of Civil Procedure Section 631 to provide that, where the deadline to post jury fees had been 25 days before trial, a party now risks waiving the right to jury trial unless he/she/it posts $150 in nonrefundable fees no later than the initial case management conference (CMC).  If there is no CMC held in a case, the deadline becomes 365 days after the complaint is filed.  For parties entering a suit after these deadlines have passed, the old 25 day before trial rule applies.  Thankfully, Section 631 retains the provision providing a court discretion to grant a jury trial to a party that arguably waived that right though failure to pay.

I can’t pretend to be surprised that the state is looking for new sources of revenue.  Forcing parties to post fees sooner and making the fees nonrefundable is one way.  It’s getting more and more expensive to sue or be sued (assuming you want a jury).  I’m reminded, though, why transactional lawyers are glad to hand off lawsuits to litigators–our practice is so filled with dread-inducing deadlines.

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