Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, October4, 2010


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Schwarzenegger Signs Expedited Trials Legislation


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation authorizing optional one-day jury trials under simplified rules in civil cases.

The governor Thursday night signed AB 2284, the Expedited Jury Trials Act, by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa. The bill, which passed both houses unanimously, attracted diverse support.

The prospect of shorter and less costly trials, and the voluntary nature of the process, attracted support from the Consumer Attorneys of California, the Civil Justice Association of California, the California Defense Counsel, the California Chamber of Commerce, Consumers Union and the insurance industry. The Judicial Council also endorsed the bill.

Under AB 2284, if both sides agree, civil trials can be heard before an eight-member jury, six of whom must agree on a verdict. Each side will be limited to three hours to present witnesses and evidence, with the object of conducting the entire trial, from jury selection to verdict, in one day.

The parties may enter into a “high/low agreement,” stipulating in advance to a floor and/or ceiling on damages, which would not be disclosed to the jury. The right of appeal would be limited, similar to judicial review of arbitration awards.

The governor Thursday also signed SB 1449, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. The bill will reduce marijuana possession, up to one ounce, from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

In a signing message, the governor said that while he opposes Proposition 19, the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, he agrees with the Judicial Council that in tough budget times, the additional costs associated with misdemeanor prosecution cannot be justified for an offense for which the punishment is already limited to a $100 fine.

The signing was criticized by the conservative group Save California. “This virtual legalization of marijuana definitely sends the wrong message to teenagers and young adults,” the group’s president, Randy Thomasson, said. “It invites youth to become addicted to mind-altering pot because there’s not much hassle and no public stigma and no rehab if they’re caught.”

The bills were among 49 the governor signed Thursday. Others included:

•AB 2362, by Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, making violation of an anti-gang injunction a misdemeanor, as well as being punishable as contempt as under present law;

•AB 2487, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, implementing a recommendation of the Commission for Impartial Courts by disqualifying trial judges from hearing cases involving parties or lawyers who have contributed more than $1,500 to their campaigns and requiring smaller contributions to be disclosed to the parties if the amount was required to be reported; 

•AB 2763, by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which will require the Judicial Council to report next year on the need for additional judgeships in juvenile and family courts. The law will also authorize the conversion of up to 10 subordinate judicial officer positions—over and above the 16 positions that may be converted under current law—to judgeships specifically to handle juvenile and family law matters; and

•SB 1428 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, which will broaden laws governing interception of electronic communications.

The governor Thursday vetoed 54 bills, including AB 2068, by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would have made it easier to expunge misdemeanor convictions. The governor’s office reported that he has signed 726 bills and vetoed 298 this year.


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