Proposed Legislation Would Mandate the Establishment of Specialized Land Use & Environmental Courts in California
On January 18, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett (D – San Leandro), introduced Senate Bill 123 (SB 123) that would require the presiding judge of each superior court in the State to establish an Environmental and Land Use Division within each court to process civil proceedings brought under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code, §§ 21000, et seq. (“CEQA”), and other environmental and land use-related subject areas such as air quality, biological resources, climate change, hazards and hazardous materials, land use planning, and water quality. SB 123 was borne out of a growing policy concern that increased environmental and land-use related litigation is bogging down the State’s judicial system, giving rise to inconsistent decisions and uncertain expectations for developers and local governments alike and, as a result, preventing long-range sustainable and orderly development. To address these concerns, SB 123 proposes that environmental and land use cases be adjudicated by specially-trained judges with the knowledge, expertise and experience to resolve these types of lawsuits fairly, consistently and expeditiously.
CEQA presently requires that counties with populations in excess of 200,000 designate one or more judges to specialize in and handle all CEQA litigation. (Pub. Res. Code, § 21167.1, subd. (b).) SB 123 would expand this concept to encompass a much broader range of land use and environmental lawsuits. SB 123 would also have a much broader range of application in that the proposed legislation applies to all county superior courts regardless of population.
On January 31, 2013, SB 123 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
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