To compute deadlines in state court:
- Determine what your triggering event is (e.g., the date your client was served with a complaint or the hearing date for a motion that you want to bring).
- Count the days forward (e.g., from service of the complaint) or backward (e.g., from the hearing date), as appropriate, to determine by when you have to act (i.e. respond to the complaint or file and serve the moving papers).
- Add method-of-service extensions, going in the same direction as you went in #2, above. (CCP § 12c(generally).)
- If the count lands you on a non-business day, your deadline will be the following court day closer to trial. (CCP § 12a(generally); CCP § 2016.060(discovery procedures).) That’s your deadline.
California Rules of Civil Procedure, Generally …
Section 12 of the California Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”) and Rule 1.10 of the California Rules of Court (“CRC”) together give us our starting point:
- Generally, when computing time, “days” are calendar days, not court days. So, just count the days, including weekends and holidays. However, there a two major exceptions. Use court days to compute (1) due dates for some motions, oppositions, and replies, and (2) certain method-of-service extensions. I give particulars below.
- Your trigger event is day zero, not day one. So, if you’re counting forward from today–say it’s a Wednesday–today is day zero, tomorrow is day one, … and next Wednesday is day 7.
- The following are holidays in state court but not federal court: Lincoln Day (generally, February 12), Caesar Chavez Day (generally, March 31), and the day after Thanksgiving (always, the Friday after Thanksgiving). (This comes from the intersection of Gov. Code § 6700 and CCP § 135, but I recommend you look to your local county court website find out the holiday schedule, e.g., the LA County Court website.)
Let’s consider some specific deadlines. Many of these can be changed by stipulation, local rules and court order. Always check the Code of Civil Procedure, the Rules of Court, the local rules, and the judge’s standing orders, all of which are usually available online.
- Answers are generally due 30 days after the complaint or cross-complaint is served. (Complaints–CCP § 412.20(a)(3); cross-complaints CCP § 432.10.)
- Demurrers and motions to strike:
- In response to complaints and counter-complaints are due 30 days after the operative complaint or cross-complaint is served. (Demurrer–CCP § 430.40(a); motion to strike–CCP § 435(b)(1).)
- In response to answers are due 10 days after the answer is served. (Demurrer–CCP § 430.40(b); motion to strike–CCP § 435(b)(1).)
- Note: Filing and serving a motion to strike without a demurrer extends the time to answer, but does not extend the time to demur. (CCP § 435(c)-(d).)
- Discovery requests may be served:
- By defendants at any time. (Interrogatories–CCP § 2030.020(a); Demands for Inspection–CCP § 2031.020(a); Requests for Admission–CCP § 2033.020(a).)
- By plaintiffs at least 10 days after the earlier of (1) service of summons on the party to be served discovery and (2) appearance of the party to be served the discovery requests. (Interrogatories–CCP § 2030.020(b); Demands for Inspection–CCP § 2031.020(b); Requests for Admission–CCP § 2033.020(b).)
- Responses to discovery requests are generally due 30 days after the requests were served. (Interrogatories–CCP § 2030.260(a); Demands for Inspection–CCP §§ 2031.260; Requests for Admission–CCP § 2033.250.)
- Depositions require 10 days’ notice. (CCP § 2025.270(a).) And they cannot be served by plaintiff until at least 20 days after service of summons and complaint on defendant. (CCP 2025.210(b).)
- Subpoenas for only the production of business records (i.e. without personal attendance) may demand production no sooner than the later of (a) 20 days after issuance of the subpoena and (b) 15 days after service of the subpoena. (CCP § 2020.410(c).)
- Subpoenas for depositions must, subject to CCP § 2020.410(c) (see the preceding bullet point), be served “a sufficient time in advance of the deposition to provide the deponent a reasonable opportunity to locate and produce any designated business records, documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things … and, where personal attendance is commanded, a reasonable time to travel to the place of deposition.” (CCP § 2020.220(a).)
- Demands for the exchange of expert witness information may be served on the later of (a) 10 days after the trial date has been set and (b) 70 days before trial. (CCP § 2034.220.) The exchange of expert witness information must then occur on the later of (a) 50 days before trial and (b) 20 days after service of the demand. (CCP § 2034.230(b).)
- Summary judgment motions (calendar days):
- Summary judgment motions are due 75 days before hearing, cannot be brought sooner than 60 days after the appearance of the party against which they are brought, and must be heard at least 30 days before trial (and therefore must be filed and served at least 105 days before trial). (CCP § 437c(a).)
- Oppositions to summary judgment motions are due 14 calendar days before hearing. (CCP § 437c(b)(2).)
- Replies to summary judgment motions are due 5 calendar days before hearing. (CCP § 437c(b)(4).)
- Note: Summary adjudication motions proceed “in all procedural aspects as” summary judgment motions. (CCP § 437c(f)(2).)
- Motions in general (court days):
- Anti-SLAPP motions must be filed within 60 days after service of the complaint (or amended complaint) and must be set for hearing no more than 30 days after service. (CCP § 425.16(f).)
- Motions for judgment on the pleadings must be made before the later of (1) the entry of a pretrial conference order and (2) 30 days before the originally scheduled trial date. (CCP § 438(e)
- Motions to compel further responses to discovery requests are due within 45 days after responses were served. (Interrogatories–CCP § 2030.300(c); Demands for Inspection–CCP § 2031.310(c); Requests for Admission–CCP § 2033.290(c).)
- Motions for protective order are due “promptly” and, logically, at least before responses are due; otherwise objections are waived. (Interrogatories–CCP § 2030.090(a); Demands for Inspection–CCP § 2031.060(a); Requests for Admission–CCP § 2033.080(a).)
Unlike federal court, state court has some tricky rules that change deadlines depending on the method of service:
- Personal service, i.e. hand delivery, changes nothing. This is the default method of service.
- Beware: Filing by dropping papers in the court’s drop box after the office closes (often 4:00 p.m.) usually counts as filing the following day; however local rules can change this. (CRC 2.210.)
- Service by mail adds 5 calendar days if mailed and delivered in California, 10 calendar days if otherwise mailed and delivered in the United States, and 20 calendar days if otherwise mailed and delivered on Earth. (Summary judgment motions–CCP § 437c(a); non-summary-judgment motions–CCP § 1005(b); everything else–CCP § 1013(a).)
- Service by email adds 2 court days. (CCP § 1010.6(a)(4), CRC 2.251(h)(2).)
- Beware: Service by email is permitted only if the parties agree to it in writing. (CCP § 1010.6(a)(2).) But face it; this is a great way for everybody (i.e. your clients) to save money.
- Beware: Service by email “after the close of business” counts as service the following court day. (CRC 2.251(h)(4).) (Note that for email it’s “after the close of business” while for fax it’s “after 5 p.m.”) So, depending on the situation, your late-in-the-day email may actually add 3 court days.
- Service by fax, express mail, and overnight delivery of:
- Non-summary-judgment motions adds 2 calendar days. (CCP § 1005(b).)
- Everything else adds 2 court days. (Summary judgment oppositions and replies–CCP § 437c(a); everything else by express mail or overnight delivery–CCP § 1013(c); everything else by fax–CCP § 1013(e), CRC 2.306(d).)
- Beware: CRC 2.306(d) purports to extend the notice period for fax service by 2 court days, which generally comports with the Code of Civil Procedure (see the last bullet point) but CCP § 1005(b) generally trumps the Rules of Court and explicitly overrides the other code sections dealing with method-of-service extensions.
- Beware: Service by fax is permitted only if the parties agree to it in writing. (CCP § 1013(e).)
- Beware: Service by fax for which transmission “is completed after 5 p.m.” counts as service the following court day. (CRC 2.306(g).) (Note that for email it’s “after the close of business” while for fax it’s “after 5 p.m.”) So, depending on the situation, your after-5p.m. fax may actually add (a) 2 calendar days plus 1 court day (in the case of non-summary-judgment motions), or (b) 3 court days (in the case of everything else).
- Good news: Extensions do not apply to oppositions or replies. Rather, oppositions and replies must be served by fax, personal delivery, express mail, or other means reasonably calculated to ensure delivery by the close of the next business day after filing. (Summary-judgment oppositions and replies–CCP § 437c(b)(6); non-summary-judgment oppositions and replies–CCP § 1005(b)-(c).) Arguably, regular local mail, i.e. within the same city, qualifies as service reasonably calculated to ensure delivery the following day.
- Beware: The extensions do not apply to extend the time for filing notices of intention to move for new trial, notices of intention to move to vacate judgment, or notices of appeal. (Email–1010.6(a)(4); mail–CCP § 1013(a); express mail–CCP § 1013(c); fax–CCP § 1013(e).)