New Emergency Rules Apply in All California Courts During COVID-19 Crisis

April 10, 2020

On April 6, 2020, the California Judicial Council, which dictates policy for the nation’s largest state court system, issued 11 emergency rules governing court operations in civil and criminal cases during the COVID-19 state of emergency. In part, the emergency rules authorize remote pretrial proceedings in civil and criminal cases, stay judicial action in unlawful detainer and foreclosure proceedings except when necessary to protect the public health and safety, toll statutes of limitations for specified actions, and remove bail for misdemeanors, most felony offenses and probation violations.

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye noted that implementation of the emergency rules was necessary to balance the need to assist with the public health priority of “flattening the curve” while also “preserving the rule of law and protecting the rights and liberties of all Californians.” With few designated exceptions, these emergency rules will remain in effect until either 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifts the state of emergency or the Judicial Council amends or repeals them.

Most notably, the Judicial Council’s emergency rules immediately implement the following changes within the California state court system.

All Civil Cases

  • Toll the statute of limitations for all unfiled causes of action
  • Extend by six months the five-year term for trials and the three-year term for retrials
  • Authorize courts to require judicial proceedings be conducted remotely
  • Authorize a deponent to elect to appear remotely
  • Authorize that evidence be exchanged and authenticated electronically

Unlawful Detainer and Foreclosure Actions

  • Preclude unlawful detainer actions, unless the court finds “that the action is necessary to protect the public health and safety”
  • Extend time for expedited trial in unlawful detainer actions and continue all trials for at least 60 days
  • Stay judicial foreclosures, unless the court finds “that the action is necessary to protect the public health and safety”
  • Toll the statute of limitations for foreclosure actions

Criminal Cases

  • Allow courts to require all pretrial judicial proceedings be conducted remotely with the defendant’s consent
  • Allow the defendant to waive personal appearance at all pretrial proceedings
  • Adopt a statewide emergency bail schedule designed to “safely reduce jail populations” that sets bail at $0 for misdemeanor offenses, most lower-level felony offenses, and probation violations where the underlying conviction involved conduct that would qualify for $0 bail
  • Prioritize hearings and orders in juvenile justice proceedings and set a structure for remote hearings and continuances

Restraining Orders and Protective Orders

  • Extend emergency protective orders issued or set to expire during the state of emergency by a term of 30 days
  • Extend temporary restraining orders and criminal restraining orders issued or set to expire during the state of emergency by a term of 90 days
  • Establish new procedures for electronic ex parte applications for temporary restraining orders

The full set of rules are available here. This is the Judicial Council’s second emergency action since Gov. Newsom issued California Executive Order N-33-20, directing all individuals to stay at home except as needed to maintain critical infrastructure sectors. The prior order, issued March 23, 2020, suspended all superior court jury trials for 60 days, among other measures.

McGuireWoods’ California civil and criminal litigation teams stand ready to guide clients through COVID-19-related inquiries under these new state rules. Please feel free to contact one of the authors for answers to questions or additional guidance on the effects of the Judicial Council rules.

In addition, McGuireWoods’ COVID-19 Response Team is prepared to help clients navigate urgent and evolving legal and business issues arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Lawyers in the firm’s 21 offices are ready to assist quickly on questions involving healthcare, labor and employment, education, real estate and more. For assistance, contact a team member, send an email to [email protected] or check out McGuireWoods’ thought leadership related to how companies across various industries can address crucial COVID-19-related business and legal issues.