Chief Justice Speech - August 6, 2001

ORANGE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
COMPLEX LITIGATION CENTER
REMARKS BY CHIEF JUSTICE RONALD M. GEORGE
AUGUST 6, 2001
SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA

GOOD MORNING. I AM VERY PLEASED TO JOIN IN THE INAUGURATION OF ORANGE COUNTY'S COMPLEX LITIGATION CENTER. THIS DEDICATED FACILITY HERALDS THE COURTROOM OF THE FUTURE BUT MAKES TECHNOLOGICAL AND OTHER INNOVATIONS AVAILABLE TO LITIGANTS AND LAWYERS TODAY.

IMPROVING ACCESS AND FAIRNESS IN THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM HAS BEEN THE MAJOR PRIORITY OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL FOR THE PAST DECADE. THE COUNCIL IS THE CONSTITUTIONALLY CREATED ENTITY CHARGED WITH OVERSEEING AND SETTING POLICY FOR THE STATEWIDE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE, AND AS CHIEF JUSTICE OF CALIFORNIA I SERVE AS ITS CHAIR.

MANY OF OUR EFFORTS HAVE BEEN FOCUSED ON LOW-INCOME INDIVIDUALS WHO NEED THE SERVICES OF THE COURTS. UNREPRESENTED LITIGANTS ARE INCREASINGLY COMING TO OUR COURTS, AND WE HAVE BEEN WORKING ON MEANS TO ASSIST THEM TO NAVIGATE THE LEGAL SYSTEM EFFECTIVELY. THESE EFFORTS HAVE TAKEN MANY FORMS: SOME OF THEM INVOLVE ENCOURAGING PRO BONO CONTRIBUTIONS BY LAWYERS ACROSS THE STATE, CONVINCING THE LEGISLATURE TO MAKE GRANTS TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF UNREPRESENTED INDIVIDUALS, SUPPORTING COOPERATIVE EFFORTS BETWEEN LOCAL COURTS AND BAR ASSOCIATIONS TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE, AND PROVIDING TECHNOLOGICALLY USER-FRIENDLY TERMINALS TO HELP THOSE COMING TO COURT FILL OUT NECESSARY FORMS OR DETERMINE WHAT FURTHER ACTION MUST BE TAKEN ON THEIR CASES.

BUT IMPROVING ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS NOT LIMITED SIMPLY TO MEASURES DESIGNED TO ASSIST THE INDIGENT. COURTS MUST BE RESPONSIVE TO ALL CONSTITUENCIES THAT NEED THEIR SERVICES — AND THAT IS WHAT THIS CENTER IS ABOUT. IT IS DESIGNED TO MEET THE SPECIAL NEEDS OF THOSE ENGAGED IN COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION.

AS YOU MAY KNOW, ORANGE COUNTY IS ONE OF SIX COURTS PARTICIPATING IN AN ONGOING STATEWIDE COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION PILOT PROGRAM. THE PILOT PROGRAM IS AN IMPORTANT AND EXCITING STEP TOWARD IMPROVING THE MANAGEMENT OF COMPLEX CASES IN CALIFORNIA STATE COURTS.

THE COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION PILOT PROGRAM AROSE AFTER AN EXHAUSTIVE EVALUATION OF THE MERITS OF POSSIBLY ESTABLISHING A SPECIALIZED COURT FOR BUSINESS AND COMMERCIAL DISPUTES. A JUDICIAL COUNCIL TASK FORCE STUDIED AND RECOMMENDED AGAINST THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SPECIALIZED COURTS CONFINED TO BUSINESS CASES, BUT DID URGE FURTHER STUDY OF THE POSSIBILITY OF IMPROVING THE MANAGEMENT OF A WIDER RANGE OF COMPLEX LITIGATION. IN RESPONSE, THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL CREATED THE COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION TASK FORCE, CHAIRED BY OUR TIRELESS JUDICIAL COUNCIL MEMBER, JUSTICE RICHARD ALDRICH. THE TASK FORCE WAS CHARGED WITH FINDING WAYS FOR COURTS TO MANAGE THESE CASES MORE EFFICIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY.

THE TASK FORCE PROVIDED A VERY HELPFUL REPORT, AND THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL TOOK A NUMBER OF ACTIONS BASED UPON THE GROUP'S RECOMMENDATIONS. THESE INCLUDED AUTHORIZING PUBLICATION OF A DESKBOOK, APPROVING A CURRICULUM FOR JUDICIAL EDUCATION IN COMPLEX CASE MANAGEMENT, REVISING RULES OF COURT AND FORMS, PROPOSING AMENDMENTS TO STATUTES, AND CREATING A CONTINUING JUDICIAL COUNCIL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE.

DURING A MEETING WITH ME, GOVERNOR DAVIS — AFTER CONSIDERING THE ACTIONS TAKEN BY THE COUNCIL, AND BASED UPON THE WORK OF THE TASK FORCE CHAIRED BY JUSTICE ALDRICH — ASKED US TO SUBMIT A PROPOSAL BY THE FOLLOWING DAY AND PERSONALLY TOOK THE INITIATIVE TO INCLUDE FUNDING IN HIS BUDGET FOR A PILOT PROGRAM FOR COMPLEX LITIGATION DEPARTMENTS. BASED UPON THE GOVERNOR'S REQUEST, THE LEGISLATURE APPROPRIATED FUNDS FOR PROJECTS STARTING IN JANUARY 2000 IN COURTS LOCATED IN SIX COUNTIES, INCLUDING ORANGE. THE ORANGE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT HAS ASSIGNED FOUR JUDGES TO THE PROGRAM, AND THEY ARE ASSISTED BY EXCELLENT STAFF.

THE PILOT PROGRAM HAS SEVERAL PRINCIPAL PURPOSES: THE FIRST IS TO EVALUATE THE EFFECT OF THREE INTERRELATED RESOURCES BEING PROVIDED TO THE SELECTED COURTS. THESE SPECIALIZED RESOURCES ARE: (1) FUNDS FOR INCREASED PERSONNEL AND FOR TECHNOLOGICAL RESOURCES IN COMPLEX CIVIL CASES; (2) SPECIALIZED JUDICIAL EDUCATION; AND (3) THE DESKBOOK ON THE MANAGEMENT OF COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION, WHICH PROVIDES PRACTICAL GUIDANCE AND INSIGHTS TO TRIAL COURT JUDGES.

ADDITIONAL STATE FUNDING HAS ALLOWED PARTICIPATING COURTS TO HIRE MORE RESEARCH ATTORNEYS AND TO IMPROVE COURTROOM TECHNOLOGY. AND THE CREATIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN A KEY COMPONENT IN MANY LOCATIONS, AS TODAY'S ACTIVITIES DEMONSTRATE.

TO ASSIST THE PILOT COURTS, A SPECIALIZED CURRICULUM APPROVED BY THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL WAS DEVELOPED TO PROVIDE CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR PILOT PROGRAM JUDGES. TWICE A YEAR THE JUDGES DESIGNATED TO PRESIDE IN THE PILOT PROJECT COURTROOMS ATTEND A TWO-TO-THREE-DAY WORKSHOP TAILORED TO ADDRESS TOPICS RELATING TO COMPLEX LITIGATION, INCLUDING CASE MANAGEMENT AND RESOLUTION.

THE THIRD CRITICAL RESOURCE, THE DESKBOOK ON THE MANAGEMENT OF COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION, WAS PUBLISHED LAST YEAR AND WAS DISTRIBUTED TO EVERY JUDGE IN THE STATE. IT COVERS GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR MANAGING COMPLEX CASES AND ADDRESSES SPECIFIC AREAS, INCLUDING ANTITRUST, CONSTRUCTION DEFECT, ENVIRONMENTAL AND TOXIC TORTS, INSURANCE COVERAGE, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, MASS TORTS, SECURITIES LITIGATION, AND CLASS ACTIONS. THE DESKBOOK ALSO INCLUDES SAMPLE CASE MANAGEMENT ORDERS. I AM PLEASED TO REPORT THAT THE RESPONSE TO THE DESKBOOK HAS BEEN VERY POSITIVE, AND WE INTEND TO UPDATE IT ON AN ONGOING BASIS.

IN ADDITION TO THESE THREE GENERALLY AVAILABLE RESOURCES, PARTICIPATING COURTS HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED TO INNOVATE IN DEVISING PRACTICES FOR EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF COMPLEX CASES. THESE ARE, AFTER ALL, PILOT PROGRAMS, WHICH MEANS THAT THEY ARE INTENDED AS LABORATORIES FOR EXPERIMENTATION FROM WHICH WE CAN BENEFIT AND LEARN.

THE SECOND GOAL OF THESE PROGRAMS IS TO DEVELOP BEST PRACTICES TO DATE FOR HANDLING COMPLEX CASES. I AM VERY ENCOURAGED BY THE PRELIMINARY REPORTS THAT HAVE BEEN RECEIVED. DEDICATING COURTROOMS TO COMPLEX CASES HAS ALLOWED THE JUDGES INVOLVED TO DEVOTE MORE TIME AND ATTENTION TO MANAGING — AND ULTIMATELY RESOLVING — THESE CASES IN A JUST, EFFICIENT, AND COST-EFFECTIVE MANNER. A GREAT DEAL IS BEING LEARNED ABOUT WHAT WORKS TO MEET THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF THIS KIND OF LITIGATION.

BUT DEVELOPING BEST PRACTICES IS NOT ENOUGH — OUR THIRD GOAL IS TO DOCUMENT THESE BEST PRACTICES AND MAKE THEM AVAILABLE TO COURTS, JUDGES, AND ATTORNEYS ACROSS THE STATE. THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL'S ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS, IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR STATE COURTS, IS CONDUCTING A STUDY TO MEASURE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF OUR PILOT PROGRAMS AND TO IDENTIFY THE MOST USEFUL PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES. A FORMAL REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE WILL BE MADE IN OCTOBER 2002. WE INTEND TO IMPLEMENT THE PILOT PROGRAM'S MOST SUCCESSFUL PRACTICES ON A STATEWIDE BASIS.

THE NEW FACILITY THAT WE CELEBRATE TODAY IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF LOCAL INNOVATION. ORANGE COUNTY HAS FOCUSED ON CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT THAT TAKES ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES TO SCAN, STORE, AND MAKE WIDELY AVAILABLE DOCUMENTS FILED IN THESE COMPLEX CASES. EACH COURTROOM IS WIRED TO PERMIT ATTORNEYS TO REPLACE THEIR LITIGATION BRIEFCASES AND THE BOXES OF DOCUMENTS FAMILIAR TO ANY ONE INVOLVED IN COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION WITH A LAPTOP CONTAINING ALL DOCUMENTATION. AND THE TOOLS ARE IN PLACE TO MAKE THOSE DOCUMENTS EASY TO DISPLAY TO OTHERS IN THE COURTROOM. MONITORS ARE MOUNTED IN MULTIPLE LOCATIONS FOR EASY VIEWING, AND SPECIALIZED COMPUTER DISPLAYS WILL ALLOW LAWYERS AND WITNESSES TO DRAW ELECTRONICALLY ON EXHIBITS AND MAPS — WHICH CAN THEMSELVES THEN BE SAVED AND STORED.

AS YOU CAN SEE, THE APPROACH TO IMPROVING THE PROCESSING OF COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION IS — LIKE THE APPROACH TO ASSISTING LOW-INCOME LITIGANTS — FAR FROM A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL VENTURE. NEW COURTROOM TOOLS, MANUALS FOR IMPROVING CASES PROCESSING, AND JUDGES AND COURTROOMS ASSIGNED TO HANDLE COMPLEX LITIGATION — THESE ALL ARE PART OF OUR EFFORTS TO RESPOND TO CURRENT NEEDS THROUGH CREATIVE SOLUTIONS.

COMPLEX CIVIL LITIGATION IS AN INCREDIBLY VIBRANT AND DEVELOPING AREA — WHICH MAKES IT A PARTICULAR PLEASURE FOR ME TO TAKE PART IN THIS MEMORABLE OCCASION. ORANGE COUNTY HAS BEEN A KEY PARTICIPANT IN THE PILOT PROJECT, AND IT IS OBVIOUS TO ALL THAT THE ORANGE COUNTY COURTS ARE CONTINUING THEIR FINE TRADITION OF DEDICATING THEMSELVES TO IMPROVING THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE AND ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD HOW TO BETTER SERVE THE PUBLIC.

I KNOW THAT WORKING TOGETHER — BOTH ON THE LOCAL LEVEL, AND AS PART OF THE STATEWIDE JUDICIAL SYSTEM — THE BENCH AND BAR IN ORANGE COUNTY WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE VERY VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO IMPROVING THE WAY IN WHICH COMPLEX LITIGATION MATTERS ARE HANDLED IN OUR STATE'S COURTS. I WISH YOU ALL EVERY SUCCESS IN THIS EXCITING AND IMPORTANT WORK.

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