Statute Change: Post your jury fees early or risk losing your civil jury

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There’s a budget crisis in California—a fact most in our state are all too aware of. Most lawyers know this intimately and see the impact it has had on courts across the state. The state has seen fit to cut the budget for the government’s third branch, the courts, significantly. As a result, the courts have been forced to respond with creative ways to add to their coffers or face the prospect of cutting off the community’s access to justice.

One simple adjustment could have wide-ranging impact to the unwary practitioner. The simple version: the $150 civil jury fee deposit is now nonrefundable and should be posted at the same time you file your case. Can you post the fees later? Yes. Is it worth doing so, trying to figure out the precise timing and risk waiving your client’s right to a jury trial? No.

We’ve provided the relevant section of the California Code of Civil Procedure section 631 so you can familiarize yourself with the change:

(b) Each party demanding a jury trial shall deposit advance jury fees with the clerk or judge. The total amount of the advance jury fees shall be one hundred fifty dollars ($150) for each party.

(c) The advance jury fee deposit shall be made on or before the date scheduled for the initial case management conference in the action. If no case management conference is scheduled in a civil action, the advance jury deposit shall be made no later than 365 calendar days after the filing of the initial complaint. If the party has not appeared before the initial case management conference or has appeared more than 365 calendar days after the filing of the initial complaint, the deposit shall be made as provided in subdivision (d).

(d) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (c), the deposit of advance jury fees shall be made at least 25 calendar days before the date initially set for trial, except that in unlawful detainer actions the fees shall be deposited at least five days before the date set for trial.

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(i) Advance jury fees deposited after the effective date of the act that amended this section during the 2011-12 Regular Session shall be nonrefundable.

Post your fees. Support the courts. And vote for the Governor’s budget increase this fall if you feel that access to justice, the third branch of government, is important.