Friday, November 16, 2001
LACBA Unveils Internet Tool to Search for Court Proceedings, Judges Handling Them
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Finding data about Los Angeles Superior Court proceedings and the judges who handle them will be much easier under a Los Angeles County Bar Association web program slated to go online today.
The association, using public data obtained from the Superior Court register, has created a searchable database that allows users to identify all cases handled by a particular judge. The search can be narrowed to a particular type of ruling, such as “demurrer,” or a particular query, like “days of trial.”
Users can then call the lawyers who handled the cases that were turned up by the search, and ask them, for example, whether a particular judge has any idiosyncrasies to watch out for.
County Bar Executive Director Richard Walch said the goal was to allow Los Angeles County lawyers to have the same kind of discussion among themselves about judges and how they handle cases that lawyers in small towns have.
“In a small town, lawyers talk to each other,” he said. “They know what the judges are like. In a big town, they don’t.”
Attorney John Collins, a Judicial Council member and a partner in Collins & Muir, said court unification last year makes such a system especially valuable.
“There are 200 new bench officers, the majority of whom are unknown” to lawyers who did not practice in the various municipal courts, he said.
Collins said he was able to use the system recently when he was trailing a case, was on-call for a courtroom, and was suddenly assigned to one.
“The call came at 10 a.m.,” he said. “Well, you have until 11:30 to file your [Code of Civil Procedure Sec.] 170.6 challenge. But what if you’ve never heard of the judge?”
With this system, he said, he could quickly contact other attorneys who had had similar cases before that judge.
The data is all available for free to the public on the Superior Court’s register, but the search function is not. That’s where the added value comes in. The Superior Court’s own site, at lasuperiorcourt.org, can be used to find a case name, the judge, the courtroom and the status of the case—but only if the user has the case number. With the LACBA site, the user can find the case number as well as the other information by simply entering the name of one of the parties.
There is a catch. The site is “designed for firm use,” LACBA marketing director Michael T. Elliott said, and is free only to firms in which every single attorney is a LACBA member.
That includes sole practitioners who are LACBA members. But for non-members, or in firms where at least one lawyer is not a member, there is a fee.
The fee schedule, as well as the searchable database, is available at the County Bar’s website, www.lacba.org.
Elliott noted that users may pay for single uses by going online, but may also join right on the LACBA site.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company