Those who missed the Civil Litigation Civil Judges' Panel Brown Bag in Department 13, on June 28, 2016 should mark their calendars to attend the next one. The title of the event might sound boring, but perhaps it should have read, "everything you wanted to know about judges' decisions but were afraid to ask." The Civil Litigation Section and the civil judges of the San Joaquin County Superior Court are working together to host a panel approximately every four months, and attendees stand to be rewarded with important information.
The June panel consisted of the honorable judges Roger Ross, Barbara Kronlund, Linda Loftus and Carter Holly. Attorneys Lisa Jimenez and Alex Sohal organized the panel and solicited questions via a survey of San Joaquin County Bar Association members. They provided the questions to the judges. Attorney Steve Brown served as the moderator.
The first discussion concerned mandatory settlement conferences. Judge Kronlund passed out a commentary from the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics concerning the ability of a judge assigned to a case to participate in the settlement conference when the judge will also hear the case at trial. The panel agreed that as a general rule, judges are able to compartmentalize the information that they receive at settlement conferences and still provide a fair and impartial ruling, considering only the evidence presented and accepted during trial.
One judge acknowledged having developed an opinion concerning the proper outcome of the case during a settlement conference and decided that recusal would be appropriate. The case settled, however, obviating the need for recusal. Each of the judges agreed that if counsel for either side requested that a different judge participate in the settlement conference, he or she would honor that request. The panel also agreed that settlement statements are helpful and necessary.
The judges' panel agreed that as a general rule, judges are able to compartmentalize the information that they receive at settlement conferences and still provide a fair and impartial ruling, considering only the evidence presented and accepted during trial.
A short discussion ensued concerning the exhibits presented at trials. One of the judges reminded the attendees that big screens are great to use during the trial in order to make an impression, but the jury has nothing to take back for deliberation unless an official paper exhibit has been admitted on the record. The panel discussed the use of exhibit binders, and each judge agreed that a binder should be designated as the official exhibit binder to be allowed in the jury room.
The panel also discussed demurrers and uniformly lauded the new meet-and-confer requirements.
An attendee asked whether the judges preferred to receive courtesy copies. The panel agreed that courtesy copies were still appropriate at this time and are generally appreciated by the bench.
The panel presented a great deal of helpful information, and the next judges' panel promises to do the same.