By Linda T. Hollenbeck, Esq.
In March, 2013 the Los Angeles Courts consolidated twenty plus local branch courts into five “Hub” Courts. Effective March 18, 2013, Downtown Los Angeles, Lancaster, Long Beach, Pasadena, and Santa Monica Courts will be the only courts taking Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) filings, including all motions/money judgments/trials, etc. Effective on June, 14, 2013, reductions in state financial support for the California judicial branch force the Court to eliminate 511 budgeted positions. As a result, 539 Los Angeles Superior Court employees will be affected, including 177 employees who will be laid off.
These changes are wreaking havoc on the UD Court process. Most of the courts have changed their policy to allow only three filings at one-time. If a Court Runner has more than three cases to file, they must return to the end of the line and wait to process any additional cases, in an effort not to exceed the new policy implemented. The Downtown Los Angeles Courthouse has limited this to two filings.
The lawsuits have already begun. There are claims that due process is not being provided to Unlawful Detainer tenants, as they are being shut out of the court process by not being able to get to a Courthouse. All of the UD Courts in the San Fernando Valley are gone. Cases that use to be filed in Santa Clarita, Chatsworth and/or Van Nuys are now being filed in Pasadena and/or Santa Monica. There is no more court access in the Valley.
Some of the immediate changes affecting the UD process are as follows:
In Pasadena, we were informed of the following: when a Defendant files a motion, generally a Demurrer/Motion to Strike, they would try to waste time by setting the motion out thirty (30) days or more. While the motion is pending, we cannot take any action to move the case forward. In order to speed the cases along, we would file an Ex Parte motion to ‘shorten time’ to have the motion advanced to the date of the Ex Parte, thus saving anywhere from three to six weeks. We were informed recently that the Pasadena Courthouse will no longer allow us to file those Ex Parte motions. If we file them, they will be denied. The Courts are saying they just don’t have time to process these extra motions. I think once defendants and the tenants’ rights groups catch wind of this, they will be filing them on every case they have, setting the motions as far out as possible. I have not heard this particular issue yet from the other courthouses, but I imagine they are not far behind.
In the Downtown Los Angeles Courthouse, they have laid off the ‘money judgment’ clerk as well as all ‘law clerks’. The ‘money judgment’ person processed the post possession default cases for money only. I’m not sure yet what this means, other than indefinite delays in an already slow process. The law clerks were the people that processed the ‘noticed motions’ as well as the ‘ex parte motions’. This will leave it up to the Judges to read and research their own motions. This court is down to two lines for the court runners and public to use for filing cases. For default filings, there is now a line for ‘drop offs’. Where in the past, a court runner could just hand drop-offs to the clerk and take-off. Now they must wait in a line to do this, and this line is separate from the new case/motion filing lines.
The Long Beach Court is no different. The lines circle the building in the morning (with the addition of 8 courts). Most courtrooms do not begin their morning calendar until approximately 10:00 a.m., waiting for everyone to gain entry into the courthouse, thus making a formerly quick morning, into an all morning ordeal.
In both Downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach (and probably other Courts), when a ‘default’ clerk goes on vacation, there is no one to fill in for that person. That means that if you file a default on a day that there is only one clerk, while the other is on a two-week vacation, your default paperwork will just sit on that desk until that clerk comes back. When the clerk does come back, not only will they have their current work to contend with, but they will have two weeks of backlogged work to catch up on. A process that might have taken 4-6 weeks, may very well take 6-10 weeks to obtain a lockout on a ‘defaulting’ case.
Santa Monica Court – the line is usually long. It takes approximately over an hour to get to the front of the line. If you have more than three claims to file, you have to get to the back of the line. If new cases are dropped off, it can take up to four days to get your complaint back with a case number.