ABTL Northern California

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

“Many Decisions Later: Litigating on the MDL Front-Lines”


Template for Virtual Bench Trial Pretrial Order

Background:  Shortly after the pandemic closed the courts, our chapter—at the suggestion of Board member Hon. Brian Walsh (Santa Clara Superior Court)—formed a “Bay Area Complex Courts Working Group” to consider measures to help the courts, and in particular their complex civil case departments, reopen.  The Working Group (whose members are listed below) began by seeking to draft a standard form of order that the complex case departments could issue to get complex cases moving again in a social distancing environment.  The goal of an absolutely uniform order proved impractical, although the Working Group reached general agreement on the basic outline.  Ultimately, most Bay Area superior courts, or their complex case departments, issued rules or standing orders based more or less on the outline.

The Virtual Trials Template:  The Working Group next turned to developing a template form of order for conducting virtual bench trials.  Again, the Working Group concluded that absolute uniformity was neither desirable nor practical, as no one order would suit every case, every court or every judge.  So instead the Working Group focused on developing a template that would facilitate discussion among counsel and the court. 

The finished product—which is now being made available to the bench and bar via the link below—reflects input from the judges and lawyers in the Working Group.  It has not been endorsed or adopted by any judge; rather, it is being offered as a starting point for discussions among counsel and with courts, to be adapted as appropriate to fit the needs of particular cases.  Already it, or earlier drafts of it, have been used in a number of cases around the Bay Area as the starting place for such discussions, and we understand that several orders reflecting it have been entered.

Link: Template for Virtual Bench Trial Pretrial Order

Members of the Working Group:
Hon. Patricia Lucas
Hon. Anne-Christine Massullo
Hon. Brad Seligman
Hon. Winifred Smith
Hon Brian Walsh
Hon. Edward Weil
Hon. Marie Weiner
Hon. Theodore Zayner
Drew Bassak
Daniel Bergeson
Margret Caruso
Bruce Ericson
Eric Fastiff
Laura Hurtado
Molly Moriarty Lane
Mark Molumphy
Jonathan Patchen
John Powers
Claude Stern
Ragesh Tangri


Statement of the Board of Governors, Association of Business Trial Lawyers, Northern California Chapter on Judicial Independence 


A Report on the Bay Area Complex Litigation Superior Courts


2021 Programs – Save the Dates

  • January 26, 2021
    A New Era in Jury Selection in California: Preparing for and Complying with AB3070
    Zoom webinar
  • March 9, 2021
    Zoom webinar
  • May 11, 2021
    Zoom webinar

2020 Programs

  • February 4, 2020
    Dinner Program
    Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • March 3, 2020
    Dinner Program
    Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • April 7, 2020
    Dinner Program
    Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • June 3, 2020
    Dinner Program
    Four Seasons – Silicon Valley, East Palo Alto
  • September 15, 2020
    Dinner Program
    Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • October 7 – 11, 2020
    Annual Seminar
    Mauna Lani, Big Island, Hawaii
  • December 8, 2020
    Dinner Program
    Hyatt Regency Embarcadero, San Francisco