JUDICIAL REFERENCES

In these days of dwindling judicial resources, is there any way to ensure that a client's case receives the prompt and thorough attention it deserves?

The answer is yes. If one considers a judicial reference - a term of art for a little-known procedure whereby the parties appoint a retired judge, or attorney-neutral, to carry out functions usually performed by a sitting judge.

The authority for judicial references stems from two sources. The first is the California Constitution, which provides for appointment of temporary judges. (See Cal. Const., Art. VI § 21). The Code of Civil Procedure also authorizes judicial references. Specifically, the code provides for the appointment of a referee to hear all or part of a given case. (See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 638, 639.) Under section 638, the parties may agree to the appointment of a referee to determine "any or all of the issues" in the action (§ 638(a)), or to "ascertain a fact necessary to enable the court" to decide the case (§ 638(b)).

The parties may agree to a judicial reference before or after the dispute arises. Under section 638, a reference may be for as much, or as little, of the case as the parties desire; the scope of the reference can be expanded by stipulation at any point in the litigation.

So if your case is "backed up on the court waiting list" you might give this a try.

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