The Conference of California Bar Associations (CCBA) added yet another success to an already impressive year Friday (October 25), when the California Judicial Council unanimously approved a CCBA-inspired amendment to the Rules of Court (jc-20131025-itemA12) clarifying and expanding the types of court hearings at which attorneys may appear telephonically. The new amendments to the rules will take effect January 1, 2014.
Specifically the rule changes:
- Clarify that the hearings, conferences, and proceedings at which a party may appear by telephone include all civil conferences, hearings, and proceedings except those expressly listed as requiring personal appearances;
- Shorten the time for notice of such appearances from three to two court days, and amend references in the rule regarding timeliness to reflect that change;
- Add ex parte applications to the types of proceedings at which a party may appear by telephone; and
- • Clarify that a court should grant leave to appear by telephone on shortened notice if good cause exists.
The amended rules are the outgrowth of CCBA Resolution 07-05-2010, developed by CCBA delegate Jason Turner and sponsored by the Orange County Bar Association. That resolution was introduced in the California Legislature in 2012 by Assemblymember Don Wagner, Vice-Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, as AB 1582, which was intended to address serious problems in the implementation of 2007 legislation (AB 500 – Lieu) which had been enacted to increase and provide uniformity in telephonic appearance practices in the state’s courts. AB 1582 would have expanded the list of specific instances – including ex parte hearings – in which telephonic appearances could be made, and clarified other provisions of the law. Most importantly, it would have made clear that telephone appearances are to be permitted unless the judge decides in a specific instance that personal appearance is required.
At the request of the Chief Justice and other repres entatives and the judicial branch, Assemblymember Wagner and the sponsoring CCBA agreed not to move forward with AB 1582, and instead to permit the Judicial Council to create a task force (including a CCBA representative) to review the problems and address them through amendment to the Rules of court. The Telephonic Appearances Working Group was organized in July 2012, with representatives from the Judicial Council’s Civil and Small Claims Advisory Committee , the CCBA, Consumer Attorneys of California, California Defense Counsel, California Judges Association, Court Executives Advisory Committee, and Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee.
It is the hope of all concerned that the revised rules will address the concerns about lack of clarify in and inconsistent application of the law relating to telephonic appearances, which produced CCBA Resolution 07-05-2010 in the first place – and will provide the additional benefit of reducing unneeded court appearances and related travel, to the benefit of clients, attorneys, the environment and the courts.