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Overview of Tentative Rulings

The Los Angeles County Superior Court invented tentative rulings in the 1960s.  Originally, they made motion practice more efficient by allowing parties to avoid an appearance upon learning which way a court was leaning, assuming the indicated result was acceptable.  Attorneys could call the court and listen to a looped recording of the next day’s tentative rulings.  Now, many departments post tentative rulings via their local court website.

The simplest of tentative rulings indicate nothing more than an intent to grant or deny.  Thanks to hard-working judges, tentative rulings have evolved greatly over the past two decades. Today, many tentative rulings go far beyond a simple ‘grant’ or ‘deny’ and are as thorough and well-written as published decisions from the California Court of Appeal or the California Supreme Court.  In fact, because the higher courts often focus on narrowly-framed issues, tentative rulings from trial court judges often provide a broader analysis.

Why Research Tentative Rulings?

Researching tentative rulings can:

  • help you prepare a more thorough report to your client or carrier
  • illustrate how a particular judge has handled specific issues in the past
  • reveal which cases your judge finds most persuasive on a given topic
  • address issues for which there is little or no appellate authority
  • provide a quick overview of issues you’re not familiar with
  • prepare an opposition to a motion you’ve never faced
  • lead you to copies of moving papers that will be vital to your research
  • provide insight regarding a judge’s interpretation of ambiguous precedent