JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE ORDER BY HON. TANI G. CANTIL-SAKAUYE, CHIEF JUSTICE OF CALIFORNIA AND CHAIR OF THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL MARCH 23, 2020
The World Health Organization, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the State of California have recognized that the world, country, and state face a life threatening pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. As of March 23, 2020, the CDC reported that there are more than 40,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and more than 500 deaths. In California, the Department of Public Health reports more than 1,700 confirmed cases and more than 30 deaths. Health officials expect these figures to rise dramatically unless the population adheres to shelter-in-place guidelines and appropriate social distancing. As of this date, there is no known cure or vaccination.
In response to the spread of COVID-19, Governor Newsom on March 4, 2020, declared a state of emergency in California, which was followed on March 13, 2020, by President Trump declaring a national emergency. Beginning on March 16, 2020, California counties began issuing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33 20, requiring all Californians to stay home, subject to certain limited exemptions. Courts are included in this exemption. Schools have been closed statewide.
The CDC, the California Department of Public Health, and local county health departments have recommended increasingly stringent social distancing measures of at least six feet between people, and encouraged vulnerable individuals to avoid public spaces.
Courts cannot comply with these health restrictions and continue to operate as they have in the past. Court proceedings require gatherings of court staff, litigants, attorneys, witnesses, and juries, well in excess of the numbers allowed for gathering under current executive and health orders. Many court facilities in California are ill-equipped to effectively allow the social distancing and other public health requirements required to protect people involved in court proceedings and prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Even if court facilities could allow for sufficient social distancing, the closure of schools means that many court employees, litigants, witnesses, and potential jurors cannot leave their homes to attend court proceedings because they must stay home to supervise their children. These restrictions have also made it nearly impossible for courts to assemble juries.
Pursuant to my authority under the California Constitution, article VI, section 6 and Government Code section 68115, and after careful consideration, balancing the constitutional due process rights of parties in both criminal and civil proceedings with the health and safety of these parties, the public, court staff, judicial officers, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and others present at these proceedings, among other considerations,
I find good cause to order that:
1. All jury trials are suspended and continued for a period of sixty (60) days from the date of this order. Courts may conduct such a trial at an earlier date, upon a finding of good cause shown or through the use of remote technology, when appropriate.
2. The time period provided in Penal Code section 1382 for the holding of a criminal trial is extended for a period of sixty (60) days from the date of this order. Courts may conduct such a trial at an earlier date, upon a finding of good cause shown or through the use of remote technology, when appropriate.
3. The time period provided in Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.320 for the holding of a civil trial is extended for a period of sixty (60) days from the date of this order. Courts may conduct such a trial at an earlier date, upon a finding of good cause shown or through the use of remote technology, when appropriate.
4. All superior courts are authorized under rule 10.613(i) of the California Rules of Court to adopt any proposed rules or rule amendment that is intended to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to take effect immediately, without advance circulation for 45 days of public comment. A court adopting any such rule change must provide a copy to Judicial Council staff and post notice of the change prominently on the court’s website, along with the effective date of the new or amended rule. Additionally, the court must immediately distribute the new or amended rule as set forth in rule 10.613(g)(2). No litigant’s substantive rights shall be prejudiced for failing to comply with the requirements of a new or amended rule until at least 20 days after the rule change has been distributed.
Courts are urged to timely communicate with attorneys and self-represented litigants regarding the status of pending proceedings.
I reserve the authority to rescind or modify this order, as appropriate, to address changing circumstances. This order may be deemed part of the record in affected cases for purposes of appeal without the need to file the order in each case.
Date: March 23, 2020
Hon. Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye Chief Justice of California and Chair of the Judicial Council