Peremptory challenge in California

A peremptory challenge in California is the topic of this blog post.

A peremptory challenge in California can be used to disqualify a judge, court commissioner, or court referee whom an attorney or party has reason to believe is prejudiced against them or their interests.

While the majority of judicial officers in California are free of bias and prejudice there are a small minority of judicial officers that have a reputation for being biased.  An experienced attorney who has personal experience with the judicial officer assigned to your case, or who knows other attorneys that have appeared before them can determine whether or not to file a peremptory challenge to the judicial officer assigned to your case.

Failing to timely file a peremptory challenge to a judicial officer can have serious negative consequences that can result in you having to have your trial or hearing heard by a judicial officer that is clearly biased or prejudiced against you or your attorney.

Statutory authorization for a peremptory challenge in California.

A peremptory challenge in California is authorized by Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6.

Any peremptory challenge must be filed and served within the time limits specified in section 170.6 and only one peremptory challenge may be filed by any attorney or party pursuant to section 170.6.  Filing a peremptory challenge against a judicial officer is often referred to in the legal profession as “dinging” or “papering” a judge.

Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6 states in pertinent part that,

“(a) (1) A judge, court commissioner, or referee of a superior court of the State of California shall not try a civil or criminal action or special proceeding of any kind or character nor hear any matter therein that involves a contested issue of law or fact when it is established as provided in this section that the judge or court commissioner is prejudiced against a party or attorney or the interest of a party or attorney appearing in the action or proceeding.

(2) A party to, or an attorney appearing in, an action or proceeding may establish this prejudice by an oral or written motion without prior notice supported by affidavit or declaration under penalty of perjury, or an oral statement under oath, that the judge, court commissioner, or referee before whom the action or proceeding is pending, or to whom it is assigned, is prejudiced against a party or attorney, or the interest of the party or attorney, so that the party or attorney cannot, or believes that he or she cannot, have a fair and impartial trial or hearing before the judge, court commissioner, or referee. If the judge, other than a judge assigned to the case for all purposes, court commissioner, or referee assigned to, or who is scheduled to try, the cause or hear the matter is known at least 10 days before the date set for trial or hearing, the motion shall be made at least 5 days before that date. If directed to the trial of a cause with a master calendar, the motion shall be made to the judge supervising the master calendar not later than the time the cause is assigned for trial. If directed to the trial of a criminal cause that has been assigned to a judge for all purposes, the motion shall be made to the assigned judge or to the presiding judge by a party within 10 days after notice of the all purpose assignment, or if the party has not yet appeared in the action, then within 10 days after the appearance. If directed to the trial of a civil cause that has been assigned to a judge for all purposes, the motion shall be made to the assigned judge or to the presiding judge by a party within 15 days after notice of the all purpose assignment, or if the party has not yet appeared in the action, then within 15 days after the appearance. If the court in which the action is pending is authorized to have no more than one judge, and the motion claims that the duly elected or appointed judge of that court is prejudiced, the motion shall be made before the expiration of 30 days from the date of the first appearance in the action of the party who is making the motion or whose attorney is making the motion. In no event shall a judge, court commissioner, or referee entertain the motion if it is made after the drawing of the name of the first juror, or if there is no jury, after the making of an opening statement by counsel for plaintiff, or if there is no opening statement by counsel for plaintiff, then after swearing in the first witness or the giving of any evidence or after trial of the cause has otherwise commenced. If the motion is directed to a hearing, other than the trial of a cause, the motion shall be made not later than the commencement of the hearing. In the case of trials or hearings not specifically provided for in this paragraph, the procedure specified herein shall be followed as nearly as possible. The fact that a judge, court commissioner, or referee has presided at, or acted in connection with, a pretrial conference or other hearing, proceeding, or motion prior to trial, and not involving a determination of contested fact issues relating to the merits, shall not preclude the later making of the motion provided for in this paragraph at the time and in the manner herein provided.”

A peremptory challenge does not have to be filed when a defendant makes what is known as a “special appearance” it only has to be filed after a defendant has made what is known as a “general appearance”.

A California Court of Appeal has stated in a published decision that the time to file a Section 170.6 peremptory challenge does not commence when defendant makes a special appearance to contest the court’s jurisdiction such as a motion to quash service of a summons but instead begins only when a defendant makes their first general appearance in the action.  A defendant has the option to peremptorily challenge the judge scheduled to hear the motion to quash but they are not required to do so.

An experienced litigation attorney can evaluate your situation and determine whether filing a peremptory challenge to the judicial officer assigned to your case is appropriate.

Contact attorney Nathan Mubasher for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.

Schedule a free consultation today with attorney Nathan Mubasher.

Call (800) 691-2721 and let’s talk about your options.

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR NATHAN MUBASHER:

Law Offices of Nathan Mubasher
2621 Green River Rd, Ste 105 PMB 403
Corona, CA 92882
tel 1-800-691-2721 | fax 1-310-356-3660
www.mubasherlaw.com

DISCLAIMER:

Thank you for reading. I hope I could have been educational as I endeavor to provide my knowledge as a free public service. Please note that all the materials and information on this blog are general analyses made available for the public’s general informational purposes only. These analyses are not in any way intended to serve as specific legal advice to be applied in your particular situation. Although I am an attorney, absent a signed retention and engagement letter, I am not your attorney. There are no exceptions to this rule. Moreover, you shall not rely on the information I am providing you, as it is only for your general knowledge and educational purposes, since this information would likely change based on any additional facts. Thus the transmission and receipt of information on this blog by anyone does not form or constitute an attorney-client relationship. My knowledge of laws is limited to California. Anyone receiving any information on this blog should not act upon the information provided without first obtaining the services of professional legal counsel licensed in their respective jurisdiction. Best of luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: nathanmubasher

Attorney Nathan Mubasher earned a post-doctorate LL.M. in International Financial Transactions with emphasis on Money Laundering and Compliance at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a J.D. at American College of Law, and his B.A. at University of California, Riverside. He is a member of the State Bar of California and is admitted to practice before all state and federal courts in California. He is also an active member of the American Health Lawyers Association and the California Society for Healthcare Attorneys. He has performed over 1,000 mediations and has Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) training from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

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