Part of Consumer Justice’s mission is to help consumers become generally more informed about how to interact with the legal system in a way that maximizes the chance they will obtain a measure of relief. A better understanding of the judges is one way Consumer Justice helps to improve the transparency of the legal system for both attorneys and judges.
Consumer Justice also provides a few basic tools to help unrepresented consumers navigate the civil justice system.
Common Strategies Before All Judges
It wasn’t so long ago that finding the rules that apply to a given court was an exercise akin to Indiana Jones finding the Temple of Doom. The rules were buried in hard-to-find books known only to lawyers or buried in corners of law libraries. However, with the advent of the internet, almost every court posts its local rules on its website and thanks to a sincere effort by the judiciary, state law and court rules are easily available and often written in plain English. Every litigant can improve his standing before a judge by reading the local rules and trying to comply with as many of them as appear applicable to his or her problem.
It is often challenging to understand “the law,” which may have a cluster of requirements and procedures inherent to it. Sometimes the law may only be ascertained by a study of statutory code sections in conjunction with common law precedent (prior cases) and other rules (e.g., the California Rules of Court), associated with a given legal problem. There are forms that help unrepresented litigants to prepare basic legal paperwork in compliance with California state law, so rather than unravel it, the forms can be an easy shortcut. The forms can be found on a website maintained by Judicial Council of California at this link.
A shortcut for unrepresented individuals to understand California state law for a particular issue is a useful Adobe document, published by the Judicial Council of California, called CACI jury instructions. These jury instructions synthesize the law on many subjects (the elements of fraud, what is necessary for the defense of duress, etc), sorted by the type of cause of action being brought. Not only does the CACI publication itemize the requirements of most claims and defenses, it also contains the cases and authority supporting its recitation of the requirements. If there is one document that best summarizes California law, it is the current CACI jury instruction manual.
Another resource for consumers is a collection of the San Diego Superior Court bench’s collection of aggregated rulings, a 5,000+ page body of work pieced together by Consumer Justice, which is instructive in terms of seeing how local judges understand and analyze particular legal issues. The collection can be accessed and searched in the “library” section of the website.
Individual collections are also available for sitting San Diego and Orange County civil judges.