Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Manuel C. v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 26, 2010)

Justice Epstein seems right that in dependency proceedings, once a case involving one child is over, a party gets a new peremptory challenge to the judge when another case is brought shortly thereafter involving a different child (albeit in the same family). It's a different case, so a new challenge. So I have no problem with the holding here as a doctrinal matter.

But, were it me, I might have added a little note to the Legislature suggesting that they take a look at this. Especially since the way we allow parties to paper judges here in California is a bit troubling in any case, but particularly so when -- as here -- there are definite efficiency (as well as potential equity and uniformity) concerns.

When the trial court here denied the peremptory, it said: "It is the practice of the Los Angeles County to file petitions on any subsequent child born to the mother and/or the same parties that are involved in the case virtually at the same time. When the cases have been terminated and a new petition is filed on the same children, as it is in this case, it is assigned to the same judge as previously assigned. The purpose of this is to allow the children and the families to have stability. It is to allow one judge to become so familiar with the family as to be able to oversee the special needs of the children and to follow the progress of the family. It allows the court to hold parents accountable for their actions. It is in the best interest of these already abused and neglected children."

To me, there's some value in that statement. And at least something worth considering. So I'd have expressly suggested as such to anyone who might be willing to listen and potentially amend the rule to provide for special procedures in multiple-child family law cases.