THE NEW FAST TRACK RULES OR “BE THERE, OR BE SQUARE”, By MARK HANCOCK

By now, attorneys should be aware that changes have been made in how the Ventura Superior Court manages compliance with the civil case management rules, AKA “fast track.” The overall effect of these changes is that the court is now less maternal; the parties and their attorneys are, under this new regime, more responsible for their own compliance with the fast track/case management rules and deadlines.

One of the changes is how courts deal with “the” case management conference. Gone is the day of all the little subsidiary conferences and OSCs re service, when the Court would mail out a “Notice of Case Management Conference” to counsel several months after the filing of a case, requesting “Case Management Statements” from counsel, regarding such subjects as service, discovery still to be done and trial length estimate to be filed no later than fifteen days prior to “the” case management conference.

Now, pursuant to Rule 3.03.1 of the Ventura County Superior Court Rules, and Rule 3.722 of the California Rules of  Court, a “Notice of Case Assignment and Mandatory Appearance” is provided to counsel filing a new complaint at the time of that filing. This notice identifies the courtroom and judge to whom the case is assigned and sets forth the date, time and courtroom of a combined (i.e., “super,”  “all-inclusive”) initial case management conference and OSC re sanctions and/or dismissal for failure to file proof of service and/or take default(s). The date is approximately five months after initial filing.

A copy of this notice is to be served by the filing party on all named defendants and/or new cross-defendants. Obviously, the fact of service of this “Notice of Case Assignment and Mandatory Appearance,” if accomplished, should be noted in a filed proof of service.

This is a big change in a number of  important ways. First, it means that the filing party is responsible for giving notice.  The court is no longer giving notice of  this new combined conference, which  includes trial setting. Especially since this conference includes trial setting, it should not be ignored. If the filing party doesn’t  give the notice, it can cause potential problems.

Second, by eliminating the earlier conferences and OSCs re service, it means counsel have to watch out for the rules regarding when service is to be accomplished on their own, or they will be that much further along in the case (i.e., five months in) when it may be harder to deal with the situation.

Third, showing up at this new “super CMC” is now declared mandatory.  Appearance at the CMC in person or by phone is necessary, unless the court notifies you otherwise. Appearance is now the rule, not the exception. It is less likely than in the “old days” that this CMC will be taken off calendar, even if the parties submit their case management statements ahead of time.

Case management statements are still required, pursuant to CRC, Rule 3.725. Parties must meet and confer 30 days before the super CMC, per CRC, Rule 3.724.

Mark E. Hancock is an attorney, with offices in Ventura, who handles insurance disputes, and insurance, personal injury and real estate litigation

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