Conversation with the Civil Bench — Takeaways

Tianqi Michael Sun

Key Takeaways from the Santa Clara County Civil Judges

Santa Clara County Civil Judges Preferred Methods of Practice

On March 22, members of the Santa Clara County Bar Association (SCCBA) gathered at McManis Faulkner for the annual “Evening Conversation with the Civil Bench” which provides a unique opportunity for members of the legal community. Also known as “Meet the Bench,” attorneys had the chance to hear about the state of the civil division directly from the judges and learn about their perspectives on a variety of matters, from Covid-19 developments to new policies and preferred methods of practice.

The Judges in attendance were the Hon. Frederick K. Chung, Hon. Sunil Kulkarni, Hon. Socrates Manoukian, Hon. Evette Pennypacker, Hon. Amber Rosen, and Hon. Helen Williams. A special thanks to the SCCBA for providing this great experience.

In case you missed this insightful event, below are some key takeaways from the evening.

Ex Parte Applications

  • Judges understand the frustration of delays in processing filings, but they emphasized the importance of not using ex parte applications to “jump the queue.” Parties should not expect a judge to rule on an ex parte application when it should have initially been a noticed motion.
  • When e-filing an ex parte application, you must include a supporting declaration with the correct email addresses/points of contact for all opposing parties and their attorneys.  Following this practice is significantly more likely to get you a hearing, and in turn, a result.


  • E-Filing has become a standard practice at the Civil Division and the Judges made it clear that this procedure is not changing any time soon.
  • The biggest reason for delays in e-filings is the use of the wrong codes and the biggest reason for rejected filings is the missing filing fees.
  • Filings will be backdated to the filing date if they were processed late.
  • Stipulations without draft orders are rejected.
  • Do not submit duplicates.
  • The court’s phonelines are open Monday-Friday, 8:30am-12:30pm to answer filing-related questions.

Case Management Conferences

              During this section of the discussion, it became evident that judges have their individual preferences when it comes to handling case management conferences. In general, they agreed about the following:

  • The Judicial Council Form, while mandatory, is not ideal. The Judges preferred a document that could provide more actual information about the case.
    • To an extent, attorneys are welcome to file an attachment to the Judicial Council Form containing a more complete discussion of the status of their cases.
  • The new Court Manager is attempting to increase automation to streamline the CMC process. The goal is to provide all parties with a calendar so that attorneys know exactly where to go.

Mandatory Settlement Conferences

  • An in-person MSC is possible if requested, but currently many are still held remotely. This is temporary.
  • Settlement attorneys appear overwhelmingly to prefer virtual MSCs.
  • The number of probate pro-tems has increased, but they are looking for more.

Jury Trials

  • All jury trials are now presumed to be in-person, but judges are liberal about allowing people to appear remotely. Motions for remote appearances should be taken up with the trial judges. While case managers are willing to decide these motions, they ultimately defer to the trial judge when it comes to courtroom preferences.
  • The Court receives a lot of requests to continue trial dates and not all those requests state good cause.
    • Additional mediation or depositions is usually not considered good cause.
    • Trial dates are a precious commodity and should be treated as such. The judges were united in their opposition to trial continuances absent good cause, even if the parties stipulate to it.

Virtual/Video Conference Tips

  • Judges emphasized the importance of wearing appropriate attire when appearing virtually.
  • Mute until it is your turn to participate in the Conference.
  • There is a strong preference for appearing on a computer with your camera on, as opposed to via a mobile device.

The “Meet the Bench” event provides an opportunity for attorneys to hear directly from the judges and ask questions that affect their day-to-day proceedings. It speaks to the unique, collaborative relationship the bar has with the bench in Santa Clara County, and we are grateful that we can be a part of this legal community. Thanks again to the SCCBA and the Judges of the Civil Division for taking the time to provide us with these valuable insights which we will incorporate into our practices. And for those who couldn’t make it, I hope to see you at the next one.

About the author Tianqi Michael Sun

In his practice, Tianqi exhibits unwavering determination and the strong ability to adapt to changing circumstances.