2011 Year in Review: Civil Law

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Hon. Judy Craddick

This may be old news to you, but to introduce you to the Civil Division, I, Judy Craddick, Dept. 9, am the Supervising Judge. The former supervising Judge of the Civil Division, the Hon. Barry Goode, Dept. 17, handles Complex Litigation and is the Court’s Assistant Presiding Judge. Judge Goode asked me to mention that he has posted “A Handy Guide to Department 17” on the Complex Litigation section of the Court’s website. The rest of us who are not so “hightech” have trial rules which we hand out at the Issue Conference.

The Hon. Laurel Brady, Dept, 31, is new to Civil this year, and is a very experienced and respected criminal trial judge extraordinaire, who tried capital murder and other horrific crimes for many years. She is also a past Presiding Judge of the Contra Costa Courts. Steven Austin, Dept. 33, returned to Civil this year after varied and sundry assignments, most recently Supervising Judge of the Pittsburg Court. Cheryl Mills, Dept.19, remained in Civil from last year. Since we have not received our assignments for 2012, we are uncertain who the Civil judges will be next year. One certain bet, however, is that our stalwart and much-appreciated Discovery Commissioner, Judith Sanders, will remain in Civil. She deserves a huge medal and much gratitude for her many years of service to the Civil Division.

All five of the Civil departments continue to manage all limited jurisdiction cases, which have been divided among us. Most of us put those cases at the end of our Case Management Calendars. The defendant in many of those cases is self-represented, which adds to the consumption of time.

It is not possible to avoid singing Verse 2 to the Budget Crisis refrain because it affects the entire community – from attorneys and litigants to the workings of the Court. Our staff has been decreased significantly. Among other things, this has resulted in a reduction in the number of hours that the Clerk’s Office is open to serve the community, delays in getting judgments and documents processed and the fact that documents are not always in the file at the time of Case Management Conferences, Law & Motion and trials. Our courtroom clerks and those in the Clerk’s office, Room 103, work diligently to process all filings, and we appreciate the tremendous effort that all staff has made to avoid becoming totally overwhelmed by the workload. We also are grateful and appreciate the understanding of the attorneys and litigants to whom we strive to give the best service possible under the circumstances.

As Civil trial judges, one of our foremost goals is to get cases to trial when they are set. Most of us have reasonable success in this endeavor, primarily due to the number of cases which settle. We are extremely fortunate to have members of our Bar who volunteer many hours of their time to serve on our ADR mediation, arbitration, neutral case evaluation and “day of trial” settlement mentor panels. Without you, we would be up to our proverbial “necks” in alligators.

To get your case to trial very quickly, if any of you wishes to try your case under the new “Expedited Jury Trials Act,” we would be pleased to accommodate you. This new process might be a great opportunity for newer attorneys desiring to gain trial experience and it is ideal for smaller or less complex matters.

Kudos and thanks also to the CCCBA and those attorneys who give generously of their time putting together and implementing educational and other programs which tremendously benefit the entire community, Bar and the Court. An important program recently instituted consists of the free monthly Legal Workshops, listed on the CCCBA website.

Despite the funding cuts we are suffering, with your help, patience and understanding, and the strong guidance of our extremely hard-working Presiding Judge, Diana Becton, we will get through this and hopefully come out better and stronger. As Friedrich Nietzsche is reputed to have said: ”That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

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