California Bar Journal
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Play a role in your own rules
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Have you ever struggled to identify what rules and procedures apply in a particular court? Ever been frustrated by varying local court requirements for procedures or practices that you think ought to be uniform across the state? Ever found yourself thinking, "There ought to be a rule?"

You probably already know that the Judicial Council is responsible for adopting statewide rules of court administration, practice and procedure, as well as forms for use in court proceedings. But you may not realize that you can play a role in this work by:

Michael Bergeisen Making proposals for changes in council rules and forms;

Commenting on published proposals;

Serving on council advisory committees.

Those of you practicing in our courts know what is working and what is not, and how the rules and forms could be improved. We welcome your ideas.

Any member of the public can propose a new or amended rule or form. The council recently adopted rule 6.20, which explains the council's process for considering proposals to amend or adopt rules and forms. Each proposal is sent to the appropriate advisory committee, which evaluates it. If the committee agrees that a new or amended rule or form is needed, the proposal or a modified version of it is circulated for public comment by the council's rules and projects committee.

After the advisory committee reviews and analyzes the comments, it may present the proposal to the council for decision. From beginning to end, the process of amending or adopting a rule or form takes about nine months.

We also welcome your comments on proposed new or amended rules or forms that are being circulated for public comment. Twice a year, usually in the winter and summer, the council's rules and projects committee sends copies of proposals to the courts and other interested organizations for their comment. Any interested organization can obtain copies of these proposals or be included on our mailing list by contacting Stephanie Leonard at the Administrative Office of the Courts, 455 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco 94102-3660; fax 415/865-4317. In addition, the proposals are posted on the California courts web site ( under "Invitations for Comment." All of the comments that are received are carefully considered by the appropriate advisory committee.

Not only can you submit or comment on suggested rule or form changes, but you can also serve on the Judicial Council advisory committees that initiate or review proposed changes in rules and forms and make recommendations to the council. The committees most often involved in rule and form changes include:

appellate advisory committee

civil and small claims advisory committee

criminal law advisory committee

family and juvenile law advisory committee; and

probate and mental health task force.

These advisory committees are composed of judges, court administrators, attorneys and others with experience and expertise in the relevant subject matter.

Nominations for these committee are sought from mid-April through the end of June and the chief justice makes appointments for three-year terms beginning Nov. 1 of each year.

Additional information and nomination forms can be obtained on the council's web site or by contacting the Administrative Office of the Courts, Secretariat and Conference Services Office.

So the next time you are tempted to grumble about those #!@! statewide or local rules of court, please remember you can make a difference and take advantage of these opportunities to participate in the rule-making process.

Michael Bergeisen is general counsel of the Judicial Council of California.