'':l<:!",c", "" R BENNEn I • ••
COURT COUNSEL Supenor Court of Californta
\ - "'., i 111 NORTH HILL STREET. SUITE 546 --.,
\.. I County of Los Angeles LOSANGELES,CA90012-3014
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October 28, 200
Joseph Zernik
PO Box 526 " J
La Vern, CA 91750
Re: Various emails and facsimile transmissio s.
Dear Zernik:
You have sent a large number of communications to 'the Court's Executive Officer, the
Presiding Judge and others by email and facsimile. Thos1e clDmmunications have been referred to
me for response. You raise a number of issues.
You complain that your emails to judges and coutt have been blocked. I have
addressed that issue in attached letter to you dated 04t01"r 23,2009.
In addition, you state that you have not been giveh explanation with regard to the
cOU1i's Sustain system, and whether the Case Summary over the Internet or at public
terminals at the is an official record ofthe cO+lt.lyou also state that you have either
not received a response or have received conflicting information to your many requests for
access to the register of actions, court calendars, case indfxds, the book ofjudgments, minute
orders, and cCliain case files. Finally, you complain that JUdfes and clerks have not responded to
your numerous demands for legal opinions concerning documents or about pending
cases. I have investigated your issues as I understand thefl, lnd provide you the following
responses as a result of that investigation::
You indicate that you have never been given an explanation with regard to the court's
Sustain system, and whether the Case Summary availablJ the Internet or at public terminals
at the courthouse is an official record of the court. Part reason for that may be that certain
of your communications have been confusing, not fully lflderstood by the recipients, or have
been sent to persons who did not have sufficient information! to give you an appropriate .
response. It is for this reason, that you should send any rtller inquiries to my attention by ,I
letter. Facsimile and email are not official ways of co unicating with the court.
In addition, part of the explanation is that prior to Ja11uary, 2000, the Los Angeles
separate entities. There were twenty-four former munici al and justice courts, and one Superior
Digitally signed by
Joseph H Zernik
DN: cn=Joseph H
Zernik, o, ou,
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Location: La Verne,
Date: 2010.04.16
02:13:09 -07'00'
Joseph Zernik
Re: Various emails and facsimile transmissions
October 28, 2009
Page: 2
Court that were unified into a single Superior Court in January, 2000. The resulting unified
court is now divided into twelve districts, and housed in hver fifty court locations spread out
over the 4,000 square miles of the County. The Superior Court inherited the legacy case
management systems that had been implemented and developed independently by the former
municipal courts. The court is still in the process of integrating all of those legacy systems,
many of which are still different from court location to court location. In addition, the statewide
Judicial Branch is developing and implementing a single case management system for all courts
in Califomia. That statewide system is not scheduled to be implemented in most courts until
2013, at the earliest, and has been delayed by decreases ih state funding due to the economic
down tum.
Register of Actions
The court is not required to maintain a register of, actions. Govemment Code section
69845 provides that the clerk of the Court "may" keep a register of actions "in which shall be
entered the title of each cause, with the date of its commencyment and a memorandum of every
subsequent proceeding in the action with its date. Altematively, in lieu of maintaining a register
of actions, the clerk may preserve all the court records fi]ed, lodged, or maintained in connection
with the case. Govemment Code section 69845.5.
At the moment, the Los Angeles Superior Court Rreserves all the court records filed,
lodged, or maintained in connection with the case in lieulof h1aintaining a register of actions, as
authorized by section 69845.5. >
While many people treat the Case Summary as a fast( history or a register of actions, it is
not, at the moment, an register of actions or an official relcord of the court. This is why there is
a disclaimer on the court's website that reads:
"The Courts and County of Los Angeles declare that information provided by and
obtained from this site, intended for use on a casd-bYi-case basis and typically by parties
of record and paliicipants, does not constitute thelOf:6.Cial record of the court. Any user of
the information is hereby advised that it is being !provided as is and that it may be subject
to error or omission. The user acknowledges and that neither the Los Angeles
Superior Court nor the County of Los Angeles arJ liable in any way whatsoever for the
accuracy or validity of the information provided.')
Part of the reason that the court has not yet adopted the Case Summary as a register of
actions is because, at the moment, as discussed above, there are at least six different legacy case
management systems in operation in the Los Angeles Court: A centralized Sustain,
district versions of Sustain, LACAS, ClVAS, SCOT, SJE. Each of these systems is used
intemally, and information from these different systems is used to generate the Case Summary
available over the Internet and at the public terminals at uhe courthouse. However, if a clerk
generates a case history using the intemal case managemfnt system at the court house,
depending upon which case management system is used ;1t tillat courthouse, the case history
Joseph Zemik
Re: Various emails and facsimile transmissions
October 28, 2009
Page: 3
report may be in a different format from the Case or may contain additional
The court is currently considering a proposal to have the Case Summary serve as the
court's register of actions. However, there are still issues that need to be assessed and addressed
before that can be done.
Corrections to Case Summary
In one of your communications you state that a correction was made to an entry in the
Case Summary or case history in Santa Monica in one of your cases. It was not clear whether
you were referring to the Case Summary provided over the Internet and at public terminals at the
courthouse, or whether this was a case history generated by a clerk with the unique case
management system used internally at that courthouse.
In some court districts and cOUlthouses, the clerks use a legacy version of Sustain, which
developed differently and may include additional inform(,l.tion or present the infom1ation in a
different forn1at. If a clerk uses a local version of Sustain at his or her non-public terminal to
print out a case history, it may not be in the format or may have additional information that is not
presented in the Case Summary available over the Internet.
In any event, a nunc pro tunc order is not normallV' required for changes to party name
entries, document filing entries or event scheduling entries in the Case Summary.
Whether or not a nunc pro tunc order is warranted for a change in a minute order or
documents in the case file may depend on the and the nature of the order or
document. Whether a nunc pro tunc order is required or warranted in a particular circumstance
is normally within the discretion of the judge presiding in the matter. See Code of Civil
Procedure section 128(a)(8).
Judgement Book
Prior to 1974, all judgements of the superior, municipal, and justice courts were entered
in a "Judgement Book." Code of Civil Procedure section 668. Although courts in some counties
continue to enter judgments in a judgment book, section 668 no longer provides the exclusive
means of entry. Code of Civil Procedure section 668.5 authorizes alternatives, including making
a microfilm copy of the individual judgement, as is done in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Index of Civil Cas
In the Los Angeles Superior Court there is no civil index, as such. Rather, case specific
information is generated electronically in response to an inquiry.
A person may conduct such a search personally without any fee at the public terminals at
Joseph Zernik
Re: Various emails and facsimile transmissions
October 28, 2009
Page: 4
the courthouses, or may request a search of files at the cqurthouse by paying the search fee
authorized by Government Code section 26854. For a qmvenience, such a search may be
conducted over the Internet by paying the fee authorized ,by California Rule of Court 2.506
This is consistent with Califomia Rules of Court,that require courts that do maintain an
index of civil cases electronically to make the record available to the public "in some form."
California Rule of Court 2.503(a).
Minute Orders
Minute orders, unless sealed or involving cases rt(quired to be confidential, should be
available in the case file. There may be a reference to minute orders in the Case Summary,
However, as noted above, the Case Summary does not at the moment constitute the court's
register of actions or an official court record. As permitted by Government Code section
69845.5, in lieu of maintaining a register of actions, the clerk preserves all the court records
filed, lodged, or maintained in connection with the case.
There is no mandated fornl for minute orders. They are generally produced by the case
management system in use in each of the courts, and can ;vary in appearance and substance from
case management system to case management system, and from clerk to clerk.
If a minute order exists and is not confidential, you should be able to examine it in the
case file or obtain a copy from the clerk by paying the statutory copying fee. In a court of this
size and complexity, regrettably, sometimes filed docum:ents become lost or misplaced. When
that occurs, often a duplicate can be printed from the appropriate case management system
utilized in the particular court (Sustain, LACAS, etc.), and placed in the court file. However, if a
fiaed document was submitted by a litigant and was not imaged by the court, a motion may need
to be made to the trial court presiding in the matter to try ;to recreate the document from copies
retained by the parties or by stipulation.
Inspection of Court Files
You complain that you have requested an oppom.,nity to inspect and copy the court's
files in at least two cases, Marina v. LA County, case number BS 109420, and Sturgeon v. L.A.
County, case number BC35l286, but have not been able to do so.
Court files that are not confidential or that have not been sealed should be available for
inspection at the courthouse where they are pending when they are not in use by judicial officers,
court staff, or being inspected by other members of the public. Neither of the files you
mentioned are confidential or sealed. I have confirmed that, except for the latest volume of the
Marina case, which was then in use in the courtroom, these two files are located in Room 112 of
the Stanley Mosk Courthouse located at III N. Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA, and are available
for inspection. The Sturgeon files are sequestered in that room to provide extra security for this
often requested file, but are open to inspection by anyone;.
Joseph Zernik
Re: Various emails and facsimile transmissions
October 28, 2009
Page: 5
You can obtain copies of any of the pleadings in trese cases by paying the statutory
copying fee of 11fty cents a page. Government Code section 70627. Generally, those fees must
be paid in advance. As a convenience you can inspect such records and download court records
that have been scanned or imaged, over the Internet by the prescribed fee for electronic
access authorized by Califomia Rule of Court 2.506. court generally only currently scans
and images court records in the Central District of the Court.
Legal Advice
In a number of your letters you request that clerks advise you as to the legality or
illegality of certain pleadings or events. Clerks are not authorized to give legal advice. If you
wish to challenge the legality of a particular pleading, or obtain a judicial ruling as to a paliicular
record, you may need to bring an appropriate legal action or file an appropriate motion in the
Comments on Pending Cases and Ex Parte Communications
With certain exceptions both judicial officers and ,their staff are ethically precluded from
publicly commenting upon pending cases outside of the courtroom or court proceedings. Code
of Judicial Ethics, canon 3B(9); Rothman, California Judicial Conduct Handbook, §5.31.
Except in certain circumstances judicial officers Gimnot consider ex parte
communications that are made outside of the courtroom proceedings or in communications not
filed in compliance with the California Rules of Court. Code of Judicial Ethics, canon 3B(7).
For this reason, David Rothman in his California Judicial Conduct Handbook, recommends that
judges and their staff set up screening procedures for email, facsimile transmissions, and regular
mail to minimize the risk of such violations. Rothman, s'l-tpra, §5.06.
Communications concerning pending cases should be accomplished as part of the
courtroom proceedings or in written communications filea and served upon the parties in the
form and manner prescribed in the Rules of Court. In fact, California Rule of Court 2.118(a)
directs clerks not to accept "any papers that do not comply with the rules" set forth in the Rules
Very truly yours,

Frederick R. Bennett
Comi Counsel

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