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Change is Coming to the California Supreme Court

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 29, 2012 4:12 PM

Spring is a time for change and renewal, and the California Supreme Court will be experiencing both this year. One change you should be sure to note is the increase in filing fees for certain documents.

Effective August 30, 2011, the filing fee will be $325 for the following documents, if they are the first document filed in the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court by a party other than the appellant or petitioner in a civil case:

  • Any application or opposition to an application.
  • Any motion or opposition to a motion.
  • Any respondent's brief in an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
  • Any preliminary opposition to a petition for a writ, excluding a preliminary opposition requested by the court unless the court has notified the parties that it is considering issuing a peremptory writ in the first instance.
  • Any return (by demurrer, verified answer, or both) after the court issues an alternative writ or order to show cause.
  • Any answer to a petition for review in the Supreme Court.
  • Any brief after the Supreme Court grants review.

Note that the new filing fee does not apply to any mediation statement form, case screening form, or other document filed as part of a court's appellate mediation program.

Speaking of fees, let's move on to news about attorney's fees; the California Supreme Court has updated its "benchmark" hours for court-appointed counsel in capital case evidentiary hearings.

The court awards payment for attorney hours above the benchmark ranges if the appointed attorney demonstrates that additional hours are warranted. The court recently concluded that the existing 150-300 hours benchmark range for attorney time devoted to preparation for a habeas corpus evidentiary hearing is not reflective of actual compensation that the court has approved in such matters, and doubled the upper benchmark range to 150-600 hours. As an alternative to time-and-costs billing under the payment guidelines and related benchmarks, court-appointed death penalty counsel may choose a "fixed fee" with "fixed expenses."

The court also revised the payment guidelines to clarify that the capital habeas corpus hourly benchmarks -- including the newly revised range -- apply to all types of evidentiary hearing matters.

The final Supreme Court change of the week is a farewell. Frederick "Fritz" Ohlrich will retire as the California Supreme Court's Clerk/Administrator on June 29, 2012. Ohlrich has been in public service for 47 years, and has served under two state chief justices and nine associate justices during his two terms as clerk, reports the Metropolitan News-Enterprise. The California Supreme Court has not announced Ohlrich's successor.

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