Court Programs

Court Programs at 4th District, Division 1
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Extern Program
Settlement Program
Court Speakers Program

Extern Program

The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One offers an extern program for law students. Externs are selected by the individual justices with whom they then work for 20 to 40 hours per week during a school trimester. The program, including an orientation and periodic group meetings, is administered by the Lead Appellate Court Attorney or designee acting as the Extern Coordinator. Students who participate as part of their school's extern program may earn course credit. The court's extern program is conducted during three trimesters: Spring (January-May), Summer (June-August) and Fall (September-December).

The extern program provides law students with a clinical educational experience at the intermediate appellate level. Each student works in chambers, under supervision, in a role similar to that of a judicial staff attorney. The program offers judicial and staff accessibility and the opportunity to hone research and writing skills. To complement the practical experience, lectures are given on opinion writing and various substantive topics.

Program Qualifications
Candidates for the extern program are selected from the top 20% of their class and must have completed first year law school coursework. Candidates with exceptional non-academic experience will also be considered. A minimum commitment of 20 hours per week is required. A total of 6 externs are usually chosen.

Application Process
Applications are due February 1st for the Summer session, March 15th for the Fall session, and October 1st for the Spring session. Adjustments will be made as needed to accommodate variations in individual school calendars.

Candidates must submit a cover letter, resume, official transcript, and writing sample (email is accepted) by the specified deadline to:

Sarah Weber, Extern Coordinator

Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One
750 B Street, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92101

Qualified candidates will be chosen to participate in the interview phase and selections will then be made. Letters of recommendation are not required, but will be accepted.

Voluntary Settlement Program, Fourth Appellate District, Division One

The court has a voluntary settlement program. The form for the voluntary settlement program is sent out to all parties when the case is assigned a number. Settlement efforts will be commenced by filing with the Court of Appeal a written request for settlement conference on the court form executed by the parties to a pending appeal. If the appeal involves more than two parties, settlement procedures will be commenced upon the request of any two opposing parties.

Settlement procedures may be initiated prior to the filing of any briefs or up to 30 days following the filing of the final brief. The commencement of settlement procedures will ordinarily not permit the interruption or extension of the brief filing schedule.

Upon receipt of a stipulated settlement conference request, the Presiding Justice will appoint a Settlement Justice. The parties stipulating to settlement procedures may request the appointment of a specific justice as Settlement Justice. Selection of the Settlement Justice shall, however, be at the discretion of the Presiding Justice. The court also reserves the right to decline to initiate settlement procedures in any specific case.

If a Settlement Justice is appointed who is not presently sitting, any compensation required by that person shall be paid by the parties requesting the settlement procedures. No such appointment requiring compensation shall be made, however, without the agreement of the parties.

Settlement procedures following appointment of a Settlement Justice shall be at the discretion of the Settlement Justice, acting in consultation with the parties. The filing of settlement conference briefs may be required, in the discretion of the Settlement Justice, if the conference takes place before final briefing of the case for appellate review. The Settlement Justice may, and usually will, require the attendance at settlement conferences of the parties or their authorized agents.

Court Speakers Program

The Court is available to provide speakers to schools and civic groups regarding court programs, procedures and the judicial system. The Court can not however comment on cases pending before the court. To request a speaker from the court, contact Kevin Lane, Clerk/Administrator at 619-744-0760.

Court Programs at 4th District, Division 2
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Backlog Reduction and Case Management
Tentative Opinion Program
Volunteer Attorney Mediator Civil Appellate Settlement Program

Backlog Reduction and Case Management

In January 1996, Division Two had a backlog of approximately 300 fully briefed cases that had not yet been assigned for preparation of an opinion, resulting in delays of up to an additional year beyond the norm in civil cases. The court had been expecting an increase in justices and/or legal staff to deal with the backlog since it began to grow in 1990--no additional justices, and only one attorney in 1991 and another for 1996, had been authorized since 1987 despite steady increases in filings. But when it became plain that the additional resources would not be forthcoming, the justices concurred in a commonsense plan developed by the presiding justice to reduce the backlog and resulting delays of up to an additional year beyond the norm in civil cases.

The first objective was to prevent the further growth of the backlog by estimating the actual number of fully briefed cases the court would receive monthly and assigning all of those cases to the chambers and staff.

The second objective was to reduce the backlog by additional case assignments beyond what was necessary to prevent backlog growth. The court looked at several different levels of case assignments, balanced the need for backlog reduction against the impact of the additional work on the justices and legal staff, and determined that the backlog could be reasonably reduced over a two-year period. The appropriate assignments were planned, the justices agreed on the work increase, and the plan was presented to court personnel.

Led by the united justices and supported by a determined staff, the court met the monthly goals and increased the number of opinions filed each month by an average of almost 50 percent becoming one of the most productive courts of appeal in the state. Almost all cases are now assigned to chambers within a month after they have been fully briefed with little, if any, backlog in the chambers. The court continues to set case assignments according to an estimate of the number of cases coming fully briefed and to monitor its caseload to insure against the development of a new backlog.

Tentative Opinion Program

Every court of appeal in California, and most intermediate appellate courts throughout the country, prepare a "bench memorandum" prior to oral argument. These memoranda often take the form of draft opinions and often become the final opinion of the court with little, if any, modifications. The great majority of appellate courts do not send the draft opinion to counsel prior to oral argument, and, as a result, counsel are completely unaware of the court’s initial response to the arguments in their briefs and do not know how to focus their oral argument. Consequently, oral argument is often a dry, meaningless ritual in which counsel merely review the arguments set forth in their briefs.

To improve the quality and relevance of the oral argument experience, the justices of this court in October 1990 started mailing the preliminary draft of the opinion, which they called the "tentative opinion," to counsel seven to ten days before oral argument. As a result, the justices of this court have found oral argument more useful in assisting the court to reach a decision. The justices do not sense that their deliberations are any less objective than before the tentative opinion program began. Counsel almost unanimously praise the program.

Issuance of the tentative opinion before oral argument has significantly reduced the time spent on oral argument in two ways. First, argument has become more focused and taken less time as counsel can concentrate on the issues found significant by the court. Second, counsel often decide to waive oral argument once they see the court’s tentative opinion. Thus, the program has increased both the quality and efficiency of the court resulting in a savings to taxpayers.

Volunteer Attorney Mediator Civil Appellate Settlement Program

After a four-month trial run in 1991, this court commenced its civil appellate settlement program using volunteer attorney mediators. Eighty mediators were selected from among the most respected attorneys in the Riverside and Riverside County bar. The court focused the program on fully briefed appeals that had not yet been assigned to a chambers. The volunteer mediators removed approximately 300 civil appeals from this court’s backlog over a period of five years saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. In recognition of that success and the program’s efficiency, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and Judicial Council honored the program in 1996 with a Kleps Award for innovative judicial programs.

As the court became current in the assignment of civil appeals for preparation of an opinion, the court shifted the settlement program focus to pre-briefing cases. The Presiding Justice now screens cases when the docketing statement is filed, and assigns about 30 percent of the cases selected to the settlement program. Once selected, participation is mandatory. Mediators specializing in the area of law involved in the appeal are matched with the case. The mediators often spend several hours prior to the first settlement conference reviewing the settlement statement provided by the parties and the record when necessary. The conferences are held at the court, and the mediators often require the parties to return for additional negotiations after the initial meeting. The percentage of cases settled has risen over the life of the program from 30 percent of the cases in which one or more settlement conferences are held to 40 percent .

Court Programs at 4th District, Division 3
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Extern Program
Judicial Settlement Program
Electronic Briefs (E-Briefs)

Extern Program

The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three offers an extern program for law students.

Candidates should check with their law schools to determine the procedures and timing for submitting applications for judicial externships with any particular appellate court justice in Division Three. Externships are available during the school year and the summer. The program is administered by the individual justices and staffs, and typically involves intense, supervised work in legal writing, legal research and exploration of various areas of substantive law. Students may earn course credit depending on the policies of their law schools.

The individual justices establish the criteria for selecting extern candidates. Candidates must have completed the first year of law school coursework, and usually commit a minimum of 20 hours per week to the program, although the hours may vary according to the needs of the justice and the time of the year. The program is highly competitive, and there are many qualified applicants. Standards for selection include: (a) legal, professional and intellectual skills to do the work required, (b) dependability, reliability and interpersonal skills, (c) commitment, and (d) integrity.

Judicial Settlement Program

In light of the budget shortfall for the judicial branch in the state budget. Division Three's Judicial Settlement Program has been discontinued, effective July 1, 2011. Parties who settle a case that is pending on appeal should immediately file a Notice of Settlement with the clerk's office and serve it upon opposing counsel. (See Calif. Rules of Court, Rule 8.244(a).)

Electronic Briefs (E-Briefs)

The court encourages parties to an appeal to cooperate in filing electronic briefs ("e-briefs"). E briefs are contained on a single CD-ROM and combine the record on appeal with the appellate briefs. E-briefs supplement the paper record and briefs, but do not replace them.

The court's voluntary E-Briefs program should not be confused with electronic service (E-Filing) of briefs to the California Supreme Court (Calif. Rules of Court, Rule 8.212.) Click here for an explanation of e-filing.

Counsel who believe that an e-brief is appropriate for an appeal should confer as early as possible with opposing counsel and should cooperate in preparing it. Ideally, the parties will file a single e-brief - a single CD-ROM containing (1) the reporter's transcript (searchable), (2) the clerk's transcript or a joint appendix in lieu thereof, including images of all exhibits (searchable), (3) copies of all cited authorities, and (d) all briefs, hyperlinked to each other, to the record, and to the full text of all cited authorities. The court encourages counsel to cooperate in filing an e-brief and to agree to share the cost.

If opposing counsel does not wish to participate, any one party may prepare the e-brief, provided the filing contains all parties' briefs hyperlinked as described above. As a courtesy to the Court, non-participating parties shall provide electronic copies of their briefs to the party preparing the e-brief.

E-briefs should be filed as early as possible, and in any event no later than 15 days after the last paper brief is filed.

Counsel must submit a written notification to the clerk's office informing the court of the intention to participate in e-briefing. The court will work with counsel to minimize delay and maximize the effectiveness of the e-briefing.

Counsel should not assume that the cost of preparation will be recoverable.

E-briefs are in addition to the normal paper copies and must meet the following requirements.

  • E-briefs must be contained on Windows-compatible CD-ROMs.
  • E-briefs must be identical in content to their paper counterparts.
  • E-briefs must be in a .pdf format viewable using a program such as Adobe Acrobat that is downloadable from the Internet at no cost to the user.
  • E-briefs must be free of computer viruses.
  • E-briefs must be accompanied by a statement, preferably within or attached to the packaging that (a) provides the instructions for viewing the record or brief and the minimum equipment required for doing so and (b) verifies the absence of computer viruses and describes the software used to ensure that they are virus-free.
  • Five copies of the e-brief on separate CDs containing the entire record, all in the required format, must be filed. No copies of the e-briefs are to be served on the Supreme Court.
  • Counsel should not assume that the cost of preparation will be recoverable.

The Court will accept any format for electronic briefs as long as it meets the minimum requirements stated above. Counsel should recognize that the usefulness of e-briefs to the Court will depend heavily on their completeness and ease of use, and how early the e-brief is filed.

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