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OAKLAND — 2003, like 2002, has seen some big changes to the procedural rules for civil appeals in California state courts. Last year, as part of a monumental, multi-year endeavor to revise the California Rules of Court governing civil and criminal appeals, the Judicial Council completely rewrote rules 1-18 on filing of the notice of appeal, preparation of the record and briefing in the court of appeal. This year brings new rules 19-29.9 and 61-69, mostly addressing procedure in the California Supreme Court and transfer of limited jurisdiction cases to the court of appeal from the appellate division of the superior court. There are also a few more changes in the rules for the court of appeal. This year’s revisions are not quite a pulp-fiction adventure story, but they are significant nevertheless. Anyone handling a civil appeal in California — whether trial counsel or appellate specialist — had better know about them. Here’s an overview. California Supreme Court Most of the rule revisions on procedure in the California Supreme Court are for purposes of clarity and cleanup. The provisions are reorganized as rules 28-29.9 in a “new and improved” format that is easier to understand and follow. Perhaps the biggest change is in restrictions on the length of petitions for review and briefs on the merits. The 2002 changes for procedure in the court of appeal replaced the 50-page limit on briefs with a roughly equivalent 14,000-word limit. The 2003 changes bring word limits to the Supreme Court. Petitions for review, which formerly had a 30-page limit, now have a limit of 8,400 words, which is the rough equivalent of 30 pages. (Rule 28.1(e).) Opening and answer briefs on the merits, which formerly had a 50-page limit, now have a limit of 14,000 words. Reply briefs on the merits, which formerly had a 15-page limit, now have a limit of 4,200 words. (Rule 29.1(c).) You can always request permission to exceed the word limits, but that’s rarely a good idea, given the court’s heavy workload. Another big change in Supreme Court procedure concerns reliance on briefs previously filed in the court of appeal. For years, the rules have allowed a party to forgo filing a new brief on the merits in the Supreme Court and instead rely on the corresponding brief previously filed in the court of appeal. Although this should be avoided — the broader focus of Supreme Court review is concerned more with public policy and the statewide administration of justice than simply review for error — it sometimes occurs, usually due to cost considerations. The old rules prescribed a 15-day deadline for filing the court of appeal brief in the Supreme Court. This filing deadline was at odds with the 30-day deadline for filing a new brief on the merits, and thus created administrative complications in the Supreme Court clerk’s office. The new rules eliminate the administrative complications by prescribing a 30-day deadline for both filings — a court of appeal brief or a new brief on the merits. (Rule 29.1(a).) On notice of oral argument, the old rules did not prescribe any particular time for the Supreme Court to give notice of the date scheduled for the argument. The rules now provide for notice to be given “at least 20 days before the argument date.” (Rule 29.2(c).) The court’s normal practice, however, is to give at least 30 days’ notice — which, given the time usually necessary to prepare for oral argument in the California Supreme Court, still can wreak havoc with an attorney’s work (or vacation) schedule. Finally, here’s a terminology change: Before 2003, the rules provided for dismissal of Supreme Court review as “improvidently granted.” New rule 29.3(b)(1) states simply that the court may “dismiss review.” The purpose of this change is to reflect current practice, in which dismissal of review usually occurs for reasons other than that the grant of review seems in hindsight to have been “improvident.” This is in fact quite rare. Dismissal of review commonly happens after a “grant and hold,” where the Supreme Court grants review because the same issue is already pending before the court in another case, then waits until the lead case is decided, and finally dismisses review of the held case if the court of appeal decided it correctly in light of the lead case. Superior Courts The rules for transfer of limited jurisdiction cases to the court of appeal from the appellate division of the superior court, rules 61-69, have been completely overhauled, changing the ways in which a transfer may occur. Transfer now can happen in either of two ways. First, transfer can occur through certification of the superior court — on a party’s application or the superior court’s own motion — and subsequent transfer by the court of appeal in its discretion. (Rule 63.) If the superior court denies an application for certification, the applicant’s remedy is a transfer petition to the court of appeal if the superior court’s decision is to be unpublished, or a transfer-supporting letter to the court of appeal if the superior court’s decision is to be published. (Rule 64.) Second, transfer can occur through discretionary transfer by the court of appeal without certification by the superior court. This can happen on a party’s petition after denial of superior court certification if the superior court opinion is to be unpublished, or on the court of appeal’s own motion if the superior court’s opinion is to be published or if the opinion is to be unpublished and no party has filed a petition for transfer. (Rule 64.) Upon transfer, the court of appeal can limit the issues to be briefed and argued. (Rules 64(e)(1), 68(a).) Thus, like the California Supreme Court on a petition for review, the court of appeal now can hear and decide fewer than all issues in a transferred case. Formerly, the court of appeal had to decide all the issues. Court of Appeal Most of the important changes in rules for the court of appeal occurred last year, but there are a few more significant changes this year. There is now a statewide requirement for an appellant to file a “Civil Case Information Statement” on a Judicial Council form, which must be submitted at the outset of the appellate process, within 10 days after the appellate court clerk mails appellant a copy of the form. (Rule 1(f).) The statement must contain, among other things, information concerning the type of judgment or order being appealed, the date of its notice of entry, and any prior appellate proceedings in the same case. The statement’s primary purposes are to enable the court of appeal to identify defects relating to timeliness and appealability, and to alert the court clerk to possible entitlement to calendar preference and whether the appeal should be assigned to the same panel that handled a prior appellate proceeding in the same case. It will now be easier to file stipulations and requests for extension of time to file an appellate brief. Amended Rule 15(b)(1) requires only one original signature on the stipulation; the other signatures may be in the form of fax copies of the original signature. Amended rule 45(f) allows counsel to “certify” in the stipulation or extension request that the client has been served with a copy, instead of having to attach a proof of such service. During the next few years, the Judicial Council will revise rules 30-80 on criminal and juvenile appeals, motions and extraordinary writs. Stay tuned for more adventures. Jon B. Eisenberg is a partner in the Oakland office of the Los Angeles-based civil appellate firm Horvitz & Levy. Eisenberg is co-author of “California Practice Guide: Civil Appeals and Writs” (The Rutter Group).

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