The Legislature’s (Temporary) Overhaul of the Demurrer Procedure

Author: Scripta Ad Astra Staff

A party in a civil action may object to a complaint, cross-complaint, or answer by demurrer. (See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 430.10.) Demurrers are typically filed when the responding party alleges the pleading fails to state a cause of action. Unless the complaint fails to state a claim based on any legal theory, and the defect cannot reasonably be cured by amendment, the court will give the responding party leave to amend. Subsequent amended pleadings are vulnerable to subsequent demurrers, and extend the time the case is pending. This motion work is expensive to litigants, and clogs the already over-burdened court system.
The Legislature passed amendments to the demurrer procedure effective January 1, 2016 through January 1, 2021, at which point the statute will self-repeal its provisions. (See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 430.41, 472, and 472a.) In most civil actions,[1][1] the parties are now required to engage in a specific meet and confer process before filing a demurrer. The court has the authority to order the parties to a conference to continue the meet and confer process. The amendments also create a “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” limit to the number of times a party can amend its complaint in response to a demurrer filed before the case is at issue, and place a new time limit on the responding party’s ability to file an amended pleading prior to the hearing on demurrer. Now, the amended pleading must be filed and served before the date for filing an opposition to the demurrer. The amendments also limit the grounds upon which a party demurrers to an amended pleading following a sustained demurrer to issues that could not have been raised by the prior demurrer.

Time will tell whether these amendments will provide a substantive filter to the demurrer process, and help decrease the court backlog in Law and Motion Departments.

[1][1] This section does not apply to the following civil actions: (1) An action in which a party not represented by counsel is incarcerated in a local, state, or federal correctional institution; and (2) A proceeding in forcible entry, forcible detainer, or unlawful detainer

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