Understanding California Senate Bill 235: A New Chapter in Civil Discovery

| October 10 2023

When it comes to the legal landscape, every new law or amendment can have a significant impact on the processes and outcomes for litigants. A recent change in California, Senate Bill 235 (CA SB235), signed into law by Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2023, brings important alterations to the civil discovery process. Let's dive into its main features and implications.

Allowing More Time to Prepare:

One of the significant changes brought about by SB 235 is the extension of time for initial disclosures from 45 to 60 days upon demand. This change is likely to benefit parties by providing them with more time to gather and present information, enabling a more thorough preparation for all parties involved and ensuring fairness.

Promoting a Broader Scope for Transparency:

The bill mandates a more comprehensive range of information for disclosure, including relevant records, individuals with valuable information, and insurance policies. The goal is clear: to create an environment where every party has access to a complete set of data, promoting transparency and fairness.

Holding Attorneys to Greater Accountability:

In a notable shift, the responsibility of verifying the initial disclosures has been shifted from the parties to their counsel. This change emphasizes the importance of accuracy in disclosures, holding attorneys to a higher level of accountability.

Increasing Consequences for Non-compliance:

Nobody enjoys facing penalties, and SB 235 has certainly raised the stakes. The sanctions for non-compliance have significantly increased from $250 to a whopping $1,000. This heightened penalty sends a clear message that obstruction or delays in the discovery process will not be tolerated.

Providing Clarity on Exemptions:

The bill offers a clear outline of the types of actions exempt from these disclosure rules. This clear delineation is designed to prevent unnecessary disputes and ambiguities regarding the applicability of the law.

An Expiry Date:

Interestingly, the provisions of SB 235 come with an expiry date. Scheduled for repeal on January 1, 2027, this sunset provision suggests that lawmakers might be testing the waters. It provides an opportunity for the legislature to reassess the effectiveness of these changes after a few years.

Final Thoughts:

The essence of SB 235 is evident: to promote transparency, ensure thoroughness, and encourage good faith in the civil discovery process. By reshaping certain aspects of litigation, it aims to streamline procedures and enhance the principles of justice. Only time will tell how these changes play out in real-life scenarios, but the intention to improve the system's efficiency and fairness is undeniable.

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