To Ding or Not to Ding: A Judicial Analytics Case Study

February 21, 2018,

Every California litigator is familiar with California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 170.6, which gives each party to a case the right to disqualify an assigned judge based on a good faith belief that the judge is prejudiced against the attorney, attorney’s firm or client. There is no requirement that the party who “dings” the judge set forth any specific facts in support of the peremptory challenge and, as such, § 170.6 is a valuable tool for litigators who believe, for whatever reason, that their assigned judge is “bad” for their case.

With the rise of judicial analytics tools, like Gavelytics, the decision of whether to ding a judge can now be based on actionable data. Let’s explore how judicial analytics can guide a litigator through the process of filing a § 170.6 motion by looking at a case study based in actual data gleaned from Gavelytics.

Let’s assume you are defending a wage and hour case and the matter is assigned to “Judge X” in Los Angeles County Superior Court. You check Gavelytics’ proprietary 170.6 analyzer to see what other Los Angeles litigators do when in front of Judge X. You quickly learn that Judge X is the most-dinged judge in the entire county and gets dinged nearly 6x the average rate. But is this good or bad for you? Should you ding him too?

Looking closer, you learn that the bulk of Judge X’s dings come from plaintiff’s lawyers in employment cases. Plaintiff side employment lawyers ding him an astounding 42% of the time, whereas defense side employment lawyers ding him only 6% of the time. Clearly, the local plaintiff’s bar has made it known to its members that Judge X is to be dinged on sight!

But does this mean that Judge X is necessarily good for the defense in employment litigation? Checking the Judge Summary page on the Gavelytics platform, and selecting “employment,” you learn that Judge X does in fact grant demurrers and motions to strike 35% and 41% (respectively) more often than the average judge in the county. Judge X is near the average on summary judgment motions, but a quick look at the Motion Analyzer determines that Judge X does grant defense-filed MSJs, and deny plaintiff-filed MSJs, materially more often than the average judge in the county.

In short, if you’re defending an employment litigation matter, Judge X is among the best judges you could draw in the county. Conversely, if you’re the plaintiff in such a case, virtually any other judge in town would be more favorable.

Gavelytics reduces guesswork and provides hard data that litigators can utilize when evaluating whether to ding their assigned judge. Whereas litigators used to have to rely on word of mouth and office-wide emails to quickly determine whether to file a peremptory challenge against a judge, they can now research each judge’s tendencies and make informed decisions. CCP § 170.6 is a powerful tool for CA litigators — even more so when paired with judicial analytics technology.

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