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Peremptory Challenges and Court Efficiency (AB 1894)

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Supporters of AB 1894 such as the personal injury lawyers at Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys and CAOC were pleased when Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill which consolidates and improves Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6. Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6 permits a party to bring a motion to disqualify a judge within 10 days from the assignment of a judge. AB 1894 extends the time frame under Code of Civil Procedure 170.6 from 10 to 15 days and requires notice to be served on all parties within 5 days of the filing of the motion.

AB 1894

The bill, which is authored by Assembly Member Bill Monning, addresses peremptory challenges under Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6. A peremptory challenge allows a plaintiff or defendant to have a judge dismissed in a jury trial. Under current law, the parties have 10 days for the motion to disqualify a judge to be brought. AB 1894 allows for a 15 day time period in which to file the disqualifying motion. The measure further requires that all parties be served the motion.

Purpose of AB 1894

Under current law, peremptory challenges are statutorily proscribed under both Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6 and Government Code Section 68616. Government Code Section 68616(i) provides for an exception to Civil Code Section 170.6 requirement that a motion to disqualify a judge be brought within 10 days by allowing for an extension of 15 days to file such motion in certain ‘fast track’ cases. AB 1894 simplifies the law and deletes both conflicting time provisions, leaving only the applicable 15 day time period for filing a peremptory challenge.

This measure was not controversial and will resolve the confusion that has resulted from the current confusing and conflicting Government Code Section 68616 and Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6.

Widespread Support for AB 1894

Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), the California Defense Counsel and the Judicial Council of California worked together in an effort consolidate and improve Code of Civil Procedure Section 170.6. According to the CAOC, this bill codifies already existing practices. The 15 day time frame under the Government Code “has been drafted in a way that has led to a great deal of confusion” said CAOC. AB 1894 will clarify the confusion and consolidate existing statutes. The Judicial Council also stated that the uniform time frame under AB 1894 “makes sense, especially since the 15 day timeline currently applies in most jurisdictions throughout the state.”

Brian Chase, a Vice President of CAOC, also showed support for the bill and its goal to consolidate and simplify the current confusion that surrounds peremptory challenges to disqualify an assigned judge.

What AB 1894 Means for Californians

AB 1894 applies only to civil suits. Criminal cases will continue to be subject to the 10 day timeline for filing the motion to disqualify a judge. This measure is non-controversial as it simply creates a uniform time period within which to bring a motion to disqualify a judge. The result will be a clearer and simpler process for civil suits.

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