Lorch v. Superior Court of San Diego County (2024) 101 Cal.App.5th 1266

GMSR’s client, represented at trial by Strategic Legal Practices, was scheduled to try her case before a San Diego judge, but his calendar became too crowded.  Acting under Local Rule 2.1.3, which purports to provide any judge of that court with the power to act as a “master calendar department” in assigning cases for trial, the first judge reassigned the case in an order that SLP counsel heard about only via voicemail from the clerk. Still, SLP filed a peremptory challenge to the new judge immediately, before trial began, as required by CCP §170.6.  That judge rejected it as untimely, relying on Local Rule 2.1.3 and the statute’s requirement that challenges be filed earlier when “directed to the trial of a cause with a master calendar.”  He proceeded to try the case in two days, entering judgment for Kia Motors.

GMSR filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to vacate the judgment and invalidate the local rule.  The Court of Appeal granted the writ in a published opinion, agreeing with all of GMSR’s arguments.  It held that: (1) the earlier deadline to file the peremptory challenge “could not have been triggered by the court clerk’s voicemail as a matter of law,” and (2) San Diego Local Rule 2.1.3 “is inconsistent with section 170.6 and binding precedent interpreting the statute.”

To read the Court of Appeal Opinion, click HERE.