New judge assignments mean new rules — which can mean surprises for lawyers appearing in their courtrooms. On Tuesday, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers invited four judges with new assignments to preview what attorneys can expect.
Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg took over Santa Clara County’s complex litigation department in January. When asked what attorneys should know about him, Kleinberg reflected on his years of experience as an attorney — “I know what you are doing, and I know what you’re not doing,” he said. “Come prepared!”
Kleinberg emphasized that there will be changes to the department.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, who has been on the bench 10 years, took over as supervising judge of civil direct calendars last year. Smith told U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, the program moderator, that she’s willing to get involved. “I’m here to resolve your disputes; I have to focus on the issues and I will push toward resolution,” she stressed. Knowing the court rules and being able to clearly articulate your case is a good way to appease the judge.
Smith said there are 14 direct calendar judges in Alameda County, with each handling approximately 550 cases. She emphasized that the resources of the court are very limited, and in her courtroom, she is only able to hear one motion for summary judgment and one demurrer a day. Smith also prefers to have as few case management conferences as possible.
If you’re up for a hearing in U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s courtroom, you’d better know why you are there. “Hearings are scheduled for a reason — there is an unresolved issue,” said Koh, who moved from Santa Clara County Superior Court to the Northern District bench last summer. With motions, Koh appreciates when attorneys are brief, can prioritize, and know how to pick their best arguments. She reviews the daily activity report to be up to speed on what has been filed in all of the cases she handles. When presenting motions in Koh’s courtroom, double-check your cites. “A misleading case citation will render the whole brief suspect and subject to strict scrutiny,” she said.
It’s barely been a month since Judge Edward Davila was confirmed to his new post by the Senate, but like the others he’s not new to judging, coming to his federal post after a decade on the bench in Santa Clara. Davila knows what he likes to see in the courtroom. “I enjoy good lawyering and appreciate good writing and oral advocacy,” he shared. When talking about the challenges ahead, Davila said that his top priorities are hiring a staff and reviewing other judges’ standing orders to see which ones he may adopt. He said he’s particularly fond of Koh’s order which encourages younger attorneys to appear in court on matters.
Koh, in turn, confesed to “borrowing” that standing order from Judge William Alsup.