Monday, August 11, 2014

Sometimes it's easier to just go to trial

Warning:  Rant ahead.

ALL courts in the Southern California area want eviction cases to settle.  All require a settlement conference prior to trial.  Some even require a settlement conference a few days before trial, and some even make the parties sit and watch a video also.

Ninety percent of eviction cases do settle, and ninety percent of those settlements do occur on the day of trial.  Most courts supply forms in the courtroom to use in writing the settlement agreement.  User-friendly courts supply a three-part form, so you write the agreement once, and it separates into three copies--one for the court, one for the Plaintiff, and one for the Defendant.  Other courts use the California judicial council form, which is only one part, but the clerks will make two copies for you after the judge signs it.

Then there are those courts which are NOT user-friendly, by any stretch of the imagination.

Me:  "We've reached a settlement.  Do you have any forms we can use?"

Clerk:  "You'll have to go upstairs and buy one from the clerk's office."

Me:  "Can I use this form I use in X County?"  [I always keep blank forms in my folder.]

Clerk:  "No, you have to use our forms."

Me:  "Okay.  Can I write it once and have copies made?"

Clerk:  "Yes, you can come back in two days, when the file is back in the clerk's office.  They'll make the copies for you."

Me:  "The parties each want a copy before they leave the court today."

Clerk:  "Then you'll have to write three copies."

So I go upstairs and pay $1 [50 cents per page], write the settlement, then pay $2 more for the clerk's office to make two copies.  This is if I'm lucky.

And sometimes, when I'm not lucky because "we don't have a public copier," I pay $3 to get three copies of the two-page form.  I write the settlement THREE times, shaking life back into my hand approximately every two minutes. My pen, thankfully, does not run out of ink, altho I always have two pens with me, just in case.  The third copy is barely legible, because my hand is barely functional by that point.
And sometimes, on top of all this aggravation, the clerks are downright nasty.  How hard can it be, to be professional and even *gasp* NICE?  I know it can be done, because there are clerks out there who are nice and friendly, even when they are giving the bad news of the court's unfriendly policies, AND even when the attorneys are behaving unprofessional toward the clerks.  Those clerks are worth every penny they are paid, and even more.

On the positive side, at least I can walk out of court with a copy of the agreement.

How does an extra hour of the parties' [and attorneys'] time, and payment of $3 per case, gonna help the courts with their budget shortfalls?  How about just increasing the filing fee by $3?

Oh, I forgot, the filing fees increased but the services the parties receive for that increase actually decreased.

Your [and my] tax dollars NOT at work.
 Some attorneys take a photo of the agreement with their phones, which is technically not permitted but usually the bailiffs don't mind, so long as you do it in the hallway and NOT in the courtroom.

But sometimes, it's just easier to go to trial.

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