William Miller purchased 500 tons of hay from S & S Hay Company in 2008, but found the delivered hay to be substandard. He sued the company in 2009, obtaining a $112,750 default judgment that S & S Hay never paid. Miller then sued in federal court for violation of California unfair competition law, or UCL.
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In a preliminary statement to the parties, [EDCA Judge] O'Neill sounded off on the heavy caseload in the Eastern District and the shortage of judges to adjudicate civil cases. He said the case could be handed over to a magistrate judge, whose schedules are "far more realistic," and urged the parties to contact California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer if they had any complaints.
"Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseload in the nation, and this court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters," O'Neill wrote. "This court cannot address all arguments, evidence and matters raised by parties and addresses only the arguments, evidence and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order given the shortage of district judges and staff. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this court's inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to consider consent to a Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings in that the Magistrate Judges' availability is far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases."
"Civil trials set before Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters," he added. "Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from outside the Eastern District of California."