Draft Model Local Rules

(designed to implement relevant recommendations of the "California Court Improvement Project Report")

The following model local rules are designed to implement relevant recommendations of the California Court Improvement Project Report.

Recommendation 1. Local juvenile courts should adopt case calendaring techniques that reduce waiting time for hearings.

Model rule 1: Whenever a child who is the subject of a dependency petition is present, his or her case shall take priority on the calendar and be heard first.

Model rule 2: Parties shall notify the court in writing if they intend to request a continuance, stating the reason for the continuance, whether or not they have discussed the nature of the continuance with the other parties, and the position of the other parties, if known.

Model rule 3: The judicial officer or his or her designee shall determine, prior to calling the calendar, the order in which the cases will be called. The judicial officer shall determine what principles should be used to prioritize cases so that waiting time for parties is minimized.

Model rule 4: Juvenile court cases take priority over all other cases heard in superior court. Judicial officers shall not require attorneys who are scheduled to appear in juvenile court on a given calendar day to appear in their courtroom on another case until the juvenile court matter is concluded.

Model rule 5: All cases requiring an interpreter shall be so indicated on the calendar so that the person calling the calendar can determine whether or not the interpreter is
present in advance of calling the case.

Model rule 6. All cases requiring transport of an in-custody parent shall be so indicated on the calendar. If it is known prior to the court day whether or not the institution will be
transporting the parent, then this information should be noted on the calendar if possible.

Model rule 7: Juvenile courts shall attempt to group earnings by hearing type and calendar them so as to minimize the time parties and other participants must wait.

Model rule 8. The juvenile court shall consider sanctions when an attorney is repeatedly late or does not appear on his or her case. 

(Example of very specific model rule 8: Any attorney who is not present when his or her case is called shall file with the court a declaration stating the reason for lateness or
nonappearance. The court shall read and consider the declaration and determine whether or not the reason is justified. If the court finds that the reason is not justified,
then the attorney shall file a written apology to the court and all parties in the case, a copy of which shall be mailed to all the parties and their attorneys in the case. If an
attorney has three apologies filed with the court, then that attorney shall not be appointed to represent parties in juvenile court.)

Recommendation 2. Local juvenile courts should actively monitor the timeliness and quality of reports to the court. Judicial Officers shall hold parties accountable for late and incomplete reports.

Model rule: Reports relating to detention of a child who is the subject of a petition under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300 shall be submitted to the court at least one hour prior to the detention hearing.

Detention reports may include police investigation reports, and shall provide the following:

(1) Information on how parties entitled to notice were notified of the hearing, or what attempts were made to locate and notify;

(2) A statement of the reasons the child was removed from the custody of the parent or guardian;

(3) A description of efforts to prevent the need for retention;

(4) A description of any services or means available to permit the child to be returned.

(5) A recommendation regarding the need for continued detention and a statement of the reasons for the recommendation;

(6) If continued detention is recommended:

(A) Information as to a mother or presumed father with whom the child was not residing at the time of the initial removal, or any relative who is able to provide adequate care of the child and is willing to assume temporary custody of the child;

(B) A description of the available services and referral methods the department can provide to the parent or guardian pending the next hearing. 

(7) Whether or not continued detention is recommended:

(A) A request for any appropriate restraining orders, physical or mental health evaluations or immediate services;

(B) A recommendation for visitation with non-custodial family members and any others.

Recommendation 3: Local juvenile courts shall grant continuances only for good cause, stating the reasons on the record. Good cause does not include "stipulation by the parties." Courts should adopt appropriate procedures and local rules to ensure that attorneys are on time for hearings or will notify the
court when they are going to be late.

Model Rule: 

(a) [Cases petitioned under section 300 (Sect. 352)]

(1) The courts shall not continue a hearing beyond the time set by statute unless the court determines the continuance is not contrary to the interests of the child. In considering the child’s interests, the court shall give substantial weight to a child’s needs for stability and prompt resolution of custody status, and the damage of prolonged temporary placements.

(2) Continuances shall be granted only on a showing of good cause, and only for the time shown to be necessary. Stipulation between counsel of parties, convenience of
parties and pending criminal or family law matters are not in and of themselves good cause.

(3) If a child has been removed from the custody of a parent or guardian, the court shall not grant a continuance that would cause the disposition hearing under section 361 to be completed more than 60 days after the detention hearing unless the court finds exceptional circumstances. In no event shall the disposition hearing be continued more
than six months after the detention hearing.

(4) In order to obtain a continuance, written notice with supporting documents shall be filed and served on all parties at least two court days prior to the date set for hearing, unless the court finds good cause for hearing an oral motion.

(5) The court shall state on its order the facts requiring any continuance that is granted. 

Recommendation 5: Local juvenile courts should hold the first post-disposition review within three months of the completion of the disposition for children
under the age of three at time of initial removal.

Model Rule: If a child was under the age of three years on the date of the child’s initial removal, and at a disposition hearing the child was declared a dependent, the court
assumed custody, and reunification services were ordered, the court shall schedule a hearing within 90 days after disposition to review the participation of the parent or
guardian in the reunification plan. At that hearing, the court shall advise the parent or guardian that at the review to be held six months from the disposition hearing, the court
may terminate reunification services if the parent or guardian has failed to participate regularly in court ordered treatment. At the 90 day review the court may make additional orders for services to facilitate reunification.

Recommendation 9: The child’s attorney (or the court, when the child does not have an attorney) shall give notice of the hearing to the child and should ensure
that the child is given an opportunity to attend if he or she wishes.

Model Rule 1 : All children four years or older that are the subject of a juvenile court hearing shall be interviewed regarding their wish to attend court hearings (except
detention) no less than 10 days before each hearing. The child shall be questioned regarding their reasons for desiring to attend the hearing and a declaration shall be
submitted to the court and all parties no less than 5 days before the hearing stating whether or not the child chooses to attend the hearing and whether or not the interviewer recommends that the child be present and state their reasons. If the child chooses to attend the hearing, and the interviewer recommends attendance by the child, the social worker shall ensure that he/she is present. In cases where the child is represented the interviewer shall be the attorney.

Model Rule 2: The social worker shall notify the child of the detention hearing and determine his/her wish to attend the hearing. The social worker shall submit a declaration to the court with his/her recommendation regarding the child’s attendance. If the child chooses to attend the hearing, and the interviewer recommends attendance by the child, the social worker shall ensure that he/she is present.


Proposed Model Local Notice Form

Judicial Officer ____________

Hearing Date ____________ Case No. ____________ 

Child’s Name ____________ Age of Child ____________

I, (interviewer) declare that the above named child has been noticed of the hearing of October 10, 1997 and of his/her opportunity to attend.

The child was told of the hearing 

in person on (date) 
by telephone on (date) 

The child’s responded on (date) that he/she 

wants to attend 
does not want to attend 

The child wants to attend to 

speak with judge 
see the process 
see his/her parent 

The do/do not recommend that the child attend the hearing because_______________. 

The child was not interviewed because:

I hereby declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.

Date: November 4, 1997 

Recommendation 13: The local juvenile courts should ensure that a single judicial officer hears all phases of a dependency case (direct calendaring), including adoptions, and whenever possible hears sibling cases together on the same date.

Model rule: The juvenile court shall adopt direct calendaring. Each juvenile court case, from the initial hearing through dismissal, shall be heard by the same judicial officer. Whenever possible, all siblings’ cases shall be calendared together and heard by the same judicial officer.

Recommendation 14: Local juvenile courts should set and complete longer matters in a continuous proceeding. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Model rule: Attorneys for parties shall provide accurate time estimates for contested hearings. The court shall calendar sufficient time for the contested hearing (e.g. two
consecutive days. The court shall seek the cooperation of other juvenile court departments to make calendar time available to cover uncontested matters so that contest will proceed uninterrupted. Attorneys should arrange their calendars to accommodate consecutive court sessions for contested matters.

The court should seek the cooperation of other juvenile officers to give priority to juvenile dependency matters that are already in trial, and to excuse counsel for parties in the dependency from appearances in other forums; or at least expedite their appearances so the dependency matters can resume as soon as possible.

Recommendation 17: Presiding superior court judges should assign judicial officers to the juvenile court to serve for a minimum of three years. Priority
should be given to judges who have expressed a willingness to actively participate in juvenile court.

Model rule: The Presiding Superior Court Judge shall assign judicial officers to the juvenile court to serve for a minimum of three years. The Presiding Superior Court
Judge shall ensure that adequate staff and space will be afforded judicial officers who receive the assignment. As the role of the juvenile court judge combines judicial,
administrative, collaborative, and advocacy skills, these shall all be considerations in making the assignment. Priority shall be given to judicial officers who express a strong desire to actively participate in the juvenile court system. 

Recommendation 19D: Local juvenile courts should encourage advocates for children and parents to be present at the first court appearance.

Model Rule 1: Local courts shall adopt a system by which legal representation is available at all hearings, including detention hearings, to accept representation and
advocate for a child and/or parent who request legal representation. The social services agency shall submit all available pre-hearing discovery to the court with the
filing of the petition. The court shall ensure that all attorneys are noticed of the availability of discovery upon its receipt. Local courts should call its calendar such that
cases need not be continued more than (24) twenty-four hours for a party to obtain and consult with legal representation.

Recommendation 22: All California courts should establish or continue interagency meetings on dependency case processing. For larger courts, with
more than one FTE judge/commissioner hearing dependency cases, these meetings should be held monthly, focusing primarily on dependency case
processing. For courts with less than one FTE judge hearing dependency cases, the meetings could be held quarterly and include all juvenile case processing
issues. Although these meetings should maintain an informal atmosphere that encourages open communication among the participants, a formal agenda should be prepared for discussion and caseflow and caseload data should be presented by the court, DSS, and other interested agencies.

Model Rule: The Presiding Judge or the Supervising Judge of the Juvenile Court shall arrange for regularly scheduled meetings of representatives of the agencies involved in
dependency cases. The meetings shall encourage open communication and discussion and focus on procedural, calendaring, and service issues.

NEW Recommendation 28: There shall be a ratio of Juvenile Court Judges to Judicial Officers that takes into consideration the size of the county and the
juvenile dependence case load of the county. 

Model Rule: The ratio of Juvenile Court Judges to Judicial Officers hearing juvenile cases shall not fall below 1:1 unless the caseload of the county does not warrant more
than one judicial officer.

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