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I Keep Hearing About a CMC – What is it?

A Case Management Conference (“CMC”) is a relatively short hearing where all parties meet with the judge to establish the logistical plan for the case.  At the CMC, the judge may establish a schedule that lists the dates of hearings, the trial, and any required exchanges of information between the parties or the court.  The ultimate purpose of the CMC is to ensure the case stays on track and is completed in a timely manner.

Pursuant to the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act (hereinafter, the “Act”), judges are required to hold CMCs in order to resolve all unlimited jurisdiction civil cases within two years of filing.  See California Rules of Court (“CRC”) section 3.713b.  Judges are required to “actively manage” each case and compel counsel to prepare for litigation without delay.  CRC 3.700 et seq.   Aside from the Act, each local superior court has an additional set of rules directed at reducing court delays.

If your case is filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court system, your judge is required to set an initial CMC no later than 180 days after the filing of the complaint.  Local Rule 3.25(a)(1).  However, most judges will schedule the initial CMC much earlier than that.  Counsel for the parties will receive a “Notice of Case Management Conference” by the court clerk once the CMC is scheduled.  Attendance by counsel is mandatory and failure to appear can result in monetary sanctions or even dismissal of the case.  Local Rule 3.37; CRC 2.2 et seq.

What Should I Do To Get Ready For The CMC?fiduciary

First, the parties, through their counsel, are required to meet in person or by phone no later than 30 days prior to the CMC to discuss the topics listed in CRC 3.724 and 3.727. The following is a brief summary of some issues that should be discussed:

  1. Discovery: Counsel can resolve discovery disputes.  They can agree on when the format information will be produced, the timeline for the production of information, and resolve any concerns of privacy, privilege, or trade secrets.
  2. Motions: Counsel can discuss potential motions they intend to file and whether the issues can be resolved informally.
  3. Stipulations: Counsel can agree on entering a stipulation regarding undisputed facts and issues in order to narrow the focus of the case.
  4. Settlement or mediation: Counsel can discuss settlement or agree to mediation as an alternative to trial. Settlement and mediation should always be an option in every case.
  5. Trial Availability: Counsel should discuss their available dates and agree on a date that works for all parties.  Remember, the Judge may set trial and hearing dates at the CMC.

Next, each party must prepare and serve a Case Management Statement using Judicial Council form (CM-110).   Check your local rules for due dates.  This form includes all the information the judge needs to know in order to properly conduct the CMC.  The Case Management Statement contains 20 questions and each question must be answered.  Many of the questions deal with whether or not the parties have accomplished required tasks like filing proofs of service, serving or responding to discovery, and whether the parties have met and conferred in advance of the CMC.

What Can I Expect at the CMC?

The parties should be fully prepared to discuss each of the 20 questions in the Case Management Statement.  Further, the parties should be prepared to discuss the additional 20 issues identified in CRC 3.727.  The following are some of the issues listed in the CRC:

  1. Status of service. If a party has not been served, counsel should be prepared to discuss their plan to accomplish service in a timely manner.
  2. Amendments. Counsel should discuss whether or not they intend on filing amendments to the complaint or answer.
  3. Other Cases. Counsel should discuss whether there are any other pending matters in other courts that could affect the outcome or processing of the case.
  4. Mediation. Counsel should discuss whether the parties have discussed mediation and if mediation has been scheduled.
  5. Bifurcation. Counsel should discuss whether the parties believe the trial should be bifurcated in order to hear certain issues in advance of others.

Moreover, this is your opportunity to bring any other issues to the court’s attention.  Once the judge has absorbed all the information, a Case Management Order tailored to suit the needs of your case will be entered.  Note that obtaining a Case Management Order that ensures timely resolution of your case is highly dependent on your counsel’s diligence in collecting and bringing helpful information it to the court’s attention.

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