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March 27, 2000


The Superior Court of California, County of Alameda
Assigned to the Complex Civil Litigation Department

The Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, is one of several courts participating in a Complex Civil Litigation Pilot Project of the California Judicial Council. Implementation planning is underway and the court will issue future informational releases. Judge William A. McKinstry, pursuant to project requirements, has designated a Judge to serve as the Complex Civil Litigation Judge.

Background of the Project

The Judicial Administration Efficiency and Modernization Fund (JAEMF), as provided in Government Code Section 77213 (b)(2), authorizes expenditures to promote efficiency, access to justice and effectiveness, including enhanced case management in accordance with standards approved by the Judicial Council. In March of 1996, then Chief Justice Lucas, appointed the Judicial Council Business Court Study Task Force to consider the merits of adopting some form of specialized court tribunal for business and commercial disputes. The Task Force conducted extensive study and analysis and recommended against implementation of a specialized court for business cases. Instead, the Task Force recommended that the Judicial Council consider and evaluate the use of complex litigation departments in the courts. The Judicial Council approved this recommendation and allocated expenditure of JAEMF funds to establish a pilot program in appropriate urban counties that focuses resources in a complex litigation department.

The complex civil litigation department is intended to be responsive to users of the court system, provides for development of best practices, and assists in design of appropriate training curricula for judicial officers, research attorneys and support staff. Participating courts are allocated funding for the pilot program by the Administrative Office of the Courts to assist in program implementation and evaluation. Courts participating in this project throughout the state include Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco and Santa Clara. The project is funded on an annual basis and is consistent with the provisions of Rule 1800, California Rules of Court. Preliminary plans anticipate funding over two and one-half years.

Project Description

Judge Ronald M. Sabraw is coordinating the planning and implementation of the Complex Civil Litigation Pilot project in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. He is assisted by key court administrative and legal staff. The goal of the pilot project is to facilitate prompt, cost-effective and fair resolutions of complex cases. The results of the pilot program will be evaluated and modeled for replication in other courts. Cases will be studied from filing to disposition to evaluate the success of the practices developed and used during the pilot program and to comply with reporting requirements associated with the funding. The court is developing local court rules to be effective May 1, 2000, that are consistent with Rule 1800, California Rules of Court.

Rule 1800 of the California Rules of Court, provides that a plaintiff may designate a case for the Complex Civil Litigation project at initial filing of the complaint, on a form approved by the California Judicial Council. This designation is subject to review by the court and counter designation by the defendant.

Judge Ronald M. Sabraw

Judge Sabraw has served as a Judge of the Superior Court since 1989. He currently hears complex civil litigation matters in Department 22 in the Administration Building. Judge Sabraw has been a member of and is currently Chair of the California Judicial Council, Civil and Small Claims Advisory Committee.

Judge Sabraw was elected Presiding Judge of Alameda County Superior Court by the Judges of the Court and served in that capacity during the 1996 and 1997 calendar years. Prior to his election as Presiding Judge, Judge Sabraw served as the Supervising Judge of the Southern Division of the Court in Hayward. During his tenure in the Superior Court, Judge Sabraw has held assignments in family law, criminal trials, law and motion, civil trials and case management, as well as having served on the Superior Court Appellate Department. He has tried a variety of cases including matters involving personal injury, medical malpractice, fraud, construction defect, eminent domain and environmental (CEQA) litigation. Judge Sabraw also held the office of Municipal Court Judge in the former Fremont-Newark-Union City Municipal Court between 1987 and 1989.

Prior to being appointed to the Court, he was a partner in the law firm of Sabraw, Fudenna, Schenone and Peck in Fremont. During his 10 years of private law practice, Judge Sabraw’s practice emphasized civil litigation. He handled matters through trial involving personal injury, breach of contract, construction defect, product liability, business transactions and real estate disputes. Judge Sabraw also served as a Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County in 1976 and 1977.

Judge Sabraw received his Juris Doctor from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific in Sacramento in 1975. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1976. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1972 from the University of the Pacific, graduating Cum Laude. Judge Sabraw is a resident of Fremont.

The contact for this information release is Barbara J. Fox, Chief Assistant Executive Officer at (510) 272-6504.

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