December 18, 2014

New Report Is a Manual for Implementing Short, Summary, and Expedited Civil Action Programs

Recognizing that there is widespread concern that the civil justice system is too complex, costs too much, and takes too long, a new report provides recommendations for designing short, summary, and expedited (“SSE”) programs and calls for implementation of such programs on a national scale. The report, A Return to Trials: Implementing Effective Short, Summary, and Expedited Civil Action Programs, is co-authored by IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System; the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA); and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

A Return to Trials builds on the work of the NCSC, which recently detailed existing SSE programs around the country, and goes further by making recommendations for implementing, conducting, and measuring effective programs.

The NCSC studied SSE programs that had been implemented in six state courts. “The most surprising thing about those programs,” explained Paula Hannaford-Agor, who directed the research project, “was how creatively they were designed to address very different local conditions that were obstructing access to trial. Although they all shared the same basic objectives, the programmatic details differed considerably. It was those details, which derived from negotiations among key stakeholders in each program, that really contributed to their success.”

A Return to Trials would not have been possible without jurisdictions, like California, that have already begun to implement SSE programs, but it was written for jurisdictions that have not yet taken that step. Many lawyers and judges in those jurisdictions have been eager to use the report to make SSE programs a reality in their courts.

“Short, summary and expedited jury trials benefit lawyers, courts, jurors, and—most importantly—litigants,” said Michael Maguire, House Counsel for State Farm in Orange County, California, and member of ABOTA’s National Board of Directors. “These programs improve access to justice by cutting down the expense and delay of litigation. Significantly, trial results are the same. In New York, South Carolina, Nevada and California, the ratio of plaintiff to defense verdicts is the same as in longer, more expensive traditional trials.”

“We need solutions to the backlogs and delays that are dominating the civil justice system,” said Thomas Fain, a partner at the law firm of Fain Anderson VanDerhoef in Seattle, Washington. “Because the work of these three organizations transcends state lines, this report is positioned to guide our consideration of a short, summary, and expedited program here in Washington.”

Alli Gerkman is Director of Communications for IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. IAALS is a national, independent research center dedicated to continuous improvement of the process and culture of the civil justice system. This post originally appeared on IAALS Online, the IAALS blog, on October 30, 2012.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

Colorado Supreme Court: Trial Court Erred by Suppressing Evidence Found During Lawful Search of Container On or Near Defendant

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Marshall on Monday, November 3, 2012.

Fourth Amendment—Arizona v. Gant—Warrantless Search.

The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order suppressing contraband obtained during the search of defendant’s backpack. The search was lawful under People v. Boff, 766 P.2d 646, 651-52 (Colo. 1988), because it was the search of a container on or near defendant incident to his lawful arrest. The trial court erroneously held that Arizona v. Gant, 556 U.S. 332, 351 (2009), modified the well-established Boff rule. Because Gant did not modify the well-established rule regarding searches incident to a lawful arrest, the trial court erred by suppressing the evidence found in the backpack.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Adverse Possession of Interest in Water Right Affirmed but Water Court Order Reversed In Part for Reconstruction of Easement to Ensure Water Rights Respected

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Archuleta v. Gomez on Monday, December 3, 2012.

Water Law—Adverse Possession of Legal Interest in Water—Enlargement of Consumptive Use—Injunction—Costs—CRCP 54(d)—Attorney Fees—CRS § 13-17-102(4).

This adverse possession dispute is between neighboring property owners—Ralph Archuleta  and Theodore Gomez—over legal interests in water and easement rights for three ditches diverting water from the Huerfano River in the Arkansas River Basin. The Archuleta Ditch extends across Gomez’s upper (westernmost) parcel of irrigated land but does not reach Gomez’s nonadjacent lower parcel or Archuleta’s parcel, which lies immediately to the east of Gomez’s lower parcel. Manzanares Ditch No. 1 cuts across the southeastern corner of Gomez’s lower parcel and the southern part of Archuleta’s parcel. Manzanares Ditch No. 2 runs across the northern part of Gomez’s lower parcel and previously extended to the northern part of Archuleta’s adjoining parcel until Gomez plowed it under, severing the connection to Archuleta’s property.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the water court in part, concluding that (1) Gomez adversely possessed Archuleta’s legal interests in the Archuleta Ditch and Manzanares Ditch No. 1; (2) awarding costs to Gomez was within the trial court’s discretion under CRCP 54(d); and (3) each party was responsible for its own attorney fees because the water court could reasonably find that Archuleta’s position in the litigation was not substantially frivolous, groundless, or vexatious pursuant to CRS § 13-17-102(4). Because Gomez wrongfully interfered with Archuleta’s water and easement rights for Manzanares Ditch No. 2 and enlarged the use of that ditch’s water, the Court reversed the water court’s judgment in part, directing it to enter an injunction for reconstruction of Manzanares Ditch No. 2 and an easement across the northern part of Gomez’s lower parcel to Archuleta’s adjoining parcel, so that Archuleta will receive the flow of water his legal interest in this ditch entitles him to divert.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 11/30/12

On Friday, November 30, 2012, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinions and five unpublished opinions.

Sawyer v. Burke

United States v. Schoenherr

Shigemura v. United States

United States v. Snider

Gurung v. Holder

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.