What if I sign up and I'm not satisfied?
There is no long-term commitment. Users can cancel at any time. If you’re unhappy and want your money back, let us know.
I would like to see more rulings from a certain judge. Can you help?
We will try! At any given time, we have a backlog of rulings which have not yet been entered. If you email us with your request, we can check our backlog. If we have more rulings that fit your criteria, we will move them to the front of the line!
Email us to ask if we have a backlog of rulings by a judge you are interested in.
How does the search page work?
While using the site from a computer (and some larger tablets), the Search Rulings page is divided vertically, with the search panel on the left and the list of search results on the right.
I. SEARCH PANEL
The search panel has four components: (a) free form search, (b) judge/county, (c) tags and (d) date. You can use them in any order and in any combination.
a. Free Form Search
Use this tool by entering text into the search box and pressing ENTER. If a single word is entered, the site will return every ruling which contains the word, including instances of that word appearing within other words. For example, a search for demur will return rulings which contain that word as well as rulings which contain demurrer, demurs, demurred, etc. However, a search for demurrers will not return a ruling which does not contain that word, even if the ruling contains the word demurrer.
If you enter multiple words into the search box, the site will return the rulings which contain all of the words, regardless of the relative order or proximity of those words within a given ruling.
If you place quotation marks around multiple words entered into the search box, the site will return rulings which contain the exact phrase searched for.
For a slightly advanced search, you can enter an exact phrase and one or more additional words. For example, a search for “premises liability” landlord would return rulings which have both the quoted phrase and the additional word. (Note: Landlords would qualify as a match for the additional word.)
The search function searches the body of the rulings as well the case names.
Depending on the goal of your research, your first step may by to narrow the search by county and judge. If your goal is to read rulings by a particular judge, doing this may refine the results to a manageable number, leaving no need to employ any of the other search components. Note that many judges share research attorneys. For that reason, if you are researching a specific topic, there is value in searching that topic within rulings of other judges from the same county. There is also plenty to be learned by reading rulings from judges in a different county.
Click one or more tags to refine the results. See the next FAQ for more information regarding tags. Most rulings are not yet tagged.
You can enter a specific range of dates or a date in just one of the boxes. Entering a date in only the first box will return rulings dated that date or later. Entering a date in only the second box will return rulings dated that date or earlier.
II. SEARCH RESULTS
The search results portion of the page contains a list of excerpts from the rulings retrieved by the then active search. In this portion of the page, you should note two categories of information. The first concerns the entire list of current results. The second relates to each individual ruling within the results.
The number of current results is displayed at the top of the list of rulings retrieved by the then active search. Also at the top are options to (1) sort alphabetically or by date, (b) to select how many rulings you would like displayed on each page and (c) to eliminate individual search criteria. Employing any of those three options will immediately and automatically result in a new search/filter operation.
Each ruling has a header which contains information about the ruling. Note the word count, because longer rulings often have more analysis. The header also displays any tags applied to that ruling.
What are tags?
Many rulings on our site have one or more pre-defined labels (called “tags”) affixed to them. Tags provide another way to help users find the right rulings. For example, if you search for “summary adjudication” for judge Jones, there may be more results than you care to read. If they are tagged with things like “alter ego,” “premises liability” and “construction,” that may help you decide which to read. Ideally, tags categorize rulings which may be hard to find otherwise. A ruling may deal with a topic but never use the term or phrase you might search for. For example, a ruling may say “slip and fall” or “dangerous condition” but never use the term “premises liability.” By tagging the ruling with “premises liability,” the user is more likely to find it.
While viewing search results, you can narrow them by selecting a tag from the left side of the page. In addition, while viewing the list of search results, a tagged ruling will display the corresponding tags below the excerpt of the ruling.
We have changed the list of tags in the past and expect to make changes in the future. Our goal is to constantly improve the search and filter options so the site provides the best possible experience for our subscribers. Your input will always be appreciated.
Tagging rulings takes a great deal of attorney time and most rulings are not yet tagged. We’d like to crowdsource this task. If you think one or more tags are appropriate for a given ruling, please enter your suggestions in the comments section of that ruling (found the bottom of the page for every ruling).
Do you post all tentative rulings?
No. We were originally inspired by a few particularly well-written tentative rulings but soon realized the value of being able to search a wide body of rulings from trial court judges. That being said, we try to exclude rulings which seem to offer little or no research value.
You don't have rulings from my county. Should I use your site?
If you are litigating in a California courtroom, your judge is most-likely applying California law. No matter what county you are in, there is much to be learned from trial court judges applying California law. Much like sitting through several hearings waiting for your own case to be called, a California litigator simply cannot explore these rulings without gaining valuable insight.
How far back do your archives go?
We have a few scattered rulings as old as 2008 but far more in later years. After reviewing and saving tentative rulings for the better part of a decade, we have seen tentative rulings, in general, become longer, better and more informative.
How reliable is your database?
We employ quality control procedures to make the database as reliable as possible, but considering we have more than 10,000 rulings, there may be inaccuracies. For example, a ruling may be attributed to a judge who did not write the ruling. This has happened when a judge takes a vacation and another judge fills in for him or her.
Why do you only have rulings from California?
Tentative rulings appear to have been invented in the 1960s in Los Angeles and while the practice has spread to many California counties, the majority of courts in the United States do not issue tentative rulings at all. Since the 1960s, tentative rulings have been used by more and more judges, but no California state court judge is required to issue a tentative ruling and many do not.
When is it acceptable to cite to a tentative ruling?
Absent exceptionally rare circumstances – never.
If tentative rulings cannot be cited as authority, why research them?
Every litigator has read countless decisions, but the great majority come from courts of appeal or a supreme court. Bench Reporter allows a litigator to gain a feel for how matters are considered and resolved at the trial court level – often by a particular judge.
Tentative rulings can do many things, including:
- 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
- help you prepare an opposition to a motion you’ve never faced
- lead you to copies of moving papers used by parties in earlier cases
- provide insight regarding a judge’s interpretation of ambiguous precedent
- reveal whether your judge is strict on technicalities
What rules of court relate to tentative rulings?
California Rule of Court 3.1308 provides important information. Be sure you know which procedure your court follows with respect to tentative rulings. In addition, the Local Rules for many counties specifically address tentative rulings.
Can I submit a tentative ruling to your site?
Sure. If it appears to be genuine and is a ruling we would otherwise post, we will post it.
How do I cancel my membership?
Log in to the site. On the home page, scroll to the bottom and click the Account link (in the column titled Membership). In the My Memberships section, you should see a link that says “cancel.” Click that link and confirm your desire to cancel on the next page.