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High Court Approves Reforms

Judge Gerald A. Williams
North Valley Justice of the Peace

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales established a Civil Justice Reform Task Force. It examined what other state court systems were doing with a focus on case management, discovery, compulsory arbitration, and court operations.

As part of its annual review of petitions recommending changes to court rules, the Arizona Supreme Court approved a set for the task’s recommended reforms. These rule changes will become effective and will have the force of law on July 1, 2018.

Future cases will be assigned to one of three tiers. Tier 1 cases are comparatively simple cases that can be tried in one or in two days. These could include automobile collisions, intentional torts, and premises liability cases.

Tier 2 cases will be lawsuits with an intermediate level of complexity. They could include either cases with counterclaims or a requirement for expert witness testimony. Tier 3 cases will be those that are logistically or legally complex. They could include class actions, antitrust claims, construction defect litigation, environmental torts, and product liability cases.  

Different sets of discovery time limits will be applied to different lawsuits, depending upon the case’s tier assignment. For example, each side gets 30 total hours of fact witness depositions for Tier 3 cases, but only 15 total hours for Tier 2, and only 5 total hours for Tier 1. 

This new proportional discovery system continues Arizona’s tradition of being a leader in civil justice reform. It, along with other reforms, should help fulfill the task force’s goal “to reduce the cost and time required to resolve civil cases in Arizona’s Superior Courts.”        

These changes will apply only to civil lawsuits filed in Superior Court. Civil lawsuits in Justice Court cases will still be governed by the Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure. Residential eviction actions in both sets of courts will still be governed by the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions.     

Judge Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.