Eminent domain lawyers who practice in Los Angeles County Superior Court are all familiar with LA County's detailed local rules on eminent domain -- "Chapter 16." Chapter 16 is the chapter in the Los Angeles County local rules that deals specifically with eminent domain, and it contains meticulous procedural rules for the conduct of condemnation cases in Los Angeles.
Key provisions involve an elaborate "First Pretrial Conference" requiring a substantial, joint written submission to Department 59 (the LA County eminent domain department), along with detailed expert exchange requirements that go well beyond the Statement of Valuation Data required under California law. (The state-wide requirements for the contents of a Statement of Valuation Data appear in Code of Civil Procedure section 1258.260.)
Last week, Commissioner Mitchell held a meeting of local eminent domain attorneys to discuss proposed changes to the local rules for eminent domain [PDF]. A key purpose of the meeting was to obtain input from the attorneys who live with these rules every day about the proposed changes.
At this point, nothing has been decided about any changes to Chapter 16; indeed, the next step may involve the formation of a small committee to analyze what changes are appropriate. However, the proposal and the discussion at last week's meeting are informative. Indeed, the very fact that the court is taking into account the views of the eminent domain attorneys who will be most affected by any changes that occur indicates the process is likely to be well thought out.
The proposal changes dramatically the requirements for the "First Pretrial Conference," converting it to a more standard "Case Management Conference" format, and eliminating many of the more time consuming joint requirements. This could fundamentally change pre-trial procedures in Los Angeles condemnation cases.
Perhaps even more significantly, much of the discussion at last week's meeting focused on the appraisal requirements and, more particularly, the detailed exchange requirements under the existing Appendix A. As Chapter 16 currently reads, Los Angeles requires parties to exchange a complete appraisal report during the expert exchange. In fact, Appendix A mandates the contents of that appraisal report, and the rules provide for an in camera review of appraisal reports by Commissioner Mitchell prior to their being exchanged.
One of the things being considered is the elimination of Appendix A and the appraisal requirements generally. If this gets adopted, Los Angeles may fall in line with the rest of California, requiring only the statutorily-mandated Statement of Valuation Data, rather than a full-blown appraisal report. Even if Appendix A is not eliminated, there was consensus among the attorneys present at the meeting that it must be reworked, especially with respect to appraisals for business goodwill.
This may not be a fast process, as the County-wide plan is to implement wholesale changes to the local rules in January 2011. Los Angeles appraisers and eminent domain attorneys will be interested to see how this develops -- we will let you know what happens next.
Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues. His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes. His public ...
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