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On Your Marks … Get Set … The Courts Are About to Open Again

The courts have been shut down since mid-March bringing the gears of justice to a screeching halt.  All court rooms have gone dark, and only the highest of emergencies are getting a minimal look through electronically distant means.  Yesterday (April 29, 2020) the San Diego Court released a new announcement that it will continue the closure until May 24, 2020.  The Orange County Court has announced it will be closed until May 24th as well.  However, Governor Newsome has announced that he believes the stay-home order will be strategically lifted by the end of May.  This indicates a likelihood that the courts will strategically reopen on their posted May 24, 2020 date.  It’s a good thing too, as there is much work to be done.

For those of you with cases pending this means that your case is about to get reset for litigation.  The courts have announced that they are giving priority to certain types of cases, such as criminal, civil restraining orders, and family cases where people’s safety and constitutional rights are at issue.  This will then be followed up by civil cases.  In the first weeks we can expect the courts to set status conference hearings to get every case back on track.  There is an estimated 35,000 case that need to be rescheduled.

Unfortunately for those who were on the eve of trial, all trials are expected to be reset for at least 60 days from now.  While further delay may be disheartening, the extra time can be a blessing.  Many attorneys will tell you that there is never enough time to prepare for trial.  Now, there is more time to prepare witnesses, prepare exhibits, do additional research to make sure that every facet of your case is ready for trial.  So be thankful for this blessing in disguise.

For those of you looking to start a new case, do not let the delay and backlog stop you from asserting your rights in court.  However, be diligent about getting your case prepared for filing.  Many people have been hurt during this pandemic.  Whether its an employee who did not get paid their wages, or someone passed away, or you have custody issues, there is expected to be a flood of cases that get filed as soon as the courts reopen.  If you don’t want to be caught behind that swell, now is the time to act.  Seek out legal advice, have your issues researched, give your attorney the time to prepare the documents in a way that allows for your case to be presented well.  Waiting until the last minute will result in your concerns not being met.

Each new case has to be reviewed.  You will tell your story to your attorney, and from those facts the attorney will develop legal claims to present to the court.  That “development” means investigation.  Investigation into the facts that you have given us.  Investigation of the evidence (what we have and what we need to get).  Investigation into the financial ability of your opponent to pay you what you are asking.  Investigation into what the law says about your story.

Just because you have been wronged by someone does not necessarily mean the law will compensate you for it.  So we, as your lawyers, need to have the chance to look it all up and present it in the way that is most likely to bring you success.  Most of what we do, as attorneys, is research and writing.  Like everyone else, nothing is perfect on the first draft.  Having this extra time to do revisions and tweaking to allow for your claim to be presented professionally will help in the judge being able to understand your claim better.  This can help in bringing you the resolution you want.

In the end, the court system works slowly, and now they will be even slower.  Your delay will only make a bad problem worse for your case.  So like a runner getting ready to start the race, get your case warmed up, prepared, and into the starting blocks so that when the court opens you will be ahead of the pack towards getting the resolution you desire.

By: Andrew Stilwell, Esq., Attorney at Contreras Law

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