2007 was an eventful year for family law in Contra Costa County. As we learned to comply with the court’s Trial Scheduling Order (TSO), the California Supreme Court in Elkins (Elkins v. Superior Court, 41 Cal.4th 1337, 163 P3d 160Cal., 2007) struck it down. We’ve started working with a tentative ruling system in family law that requires us to check the tentative rulings the day prior to a hearing (after 1:30pm) and to notify the court and opposing counsel of our objections no later than 4:30pm that day. At this time, we must also say goodbye to Judge Barry Baskin and Commissioner Libbey.
As many of you know, Judge Barry Goode will be taking over Judge Barry Baskin’s duties as the supervising family law judge. It is a pleasure to welcome him to that position. As the Supervising Judge, Judge Goode is making a tremendous effort to engage the Family Law Section in rewriting the local rules, in part to comply with the Elkins decision and in part to make them easier for pro pers to understand. As the bar is a collaborative partner in this process, I expect the end result will have a positive impact on our private practices.
One part of the local rules that will certainly be with us well into the future is the tentative ruling system. The biggest complaint about the tentative ruling system is that the short turnaround from when the tentative ruling is issued until the court and opposing counsel must be advised that it will be challenged leaves attorneys little time to discuss the ruling with our clients. Conscious of this, the bench and the bar are working together to determine the most efficient way to give attorneys more time to review and respond to a tentative ruling. By the time this message is printed a fix may well be in place.
I also welcome Judge Cheryl Mills to the family law bench, who will be taking over the judicial seat being left by Judge Baskin, who is being reassigned to the civil calendar. In a break from tradition, Judge Baskin has indicated that he will return to the family law bench at some point in the future. Perhaps Judge Baskin will set a trend for judges to return to the family law assignment. It is also a great pleasure to welcome Judge Susanne Fenstermacher to the new family law judicial spot in July of 2008.Judge Fenstermacher, like Commissioner Huffaker, brings with her decades of private practice family law experience. Sadly, we are losing a friend with the retirement of Commissioner James H. Libbey next month. Judge Libbey was directly involved with the development of the local rules throughout his tenure as a family law commissioner and he is currently devoting a significant amount of time to developing the new rules. Even in his final months as a bench officer, he has been working diligently with drafts and revised drafts of the local rules and Practice Guide – to be known as the Family Law Guide. For your commitment to the family law bench and bar, your many years of service, and the friendship you have given us, we thank you, Jim Libbey.
– David Lederman, a certified family law specialist, is the principal attorney for the Law Offices of David M. Lederman.