As the COVID-19 crisis eases, California courts have removed certain restrictions that had been put in place to reduce pandemic-related harm. The changes will have a big impact on California practitioners, as well as particular clients. Here’s a rundown of the changes, and a summary of what restrictions remain in place.

Changes to COVID-19-related Restrictions: Bail and Speedy Trial. The California Judicial Council—the policymaking body of the California courts—has lifted an “emergency rule” that set presumptive bail at $0 statewide for most misdemeanors and lower-level felonies.  The bail schedule, which originally was set to expire 90 days after Governor Gavin Newsom ends California’s state of emergency, now sunsets on June 20, 2020.  Additionally, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye rescinded her March 30, 2020 order that extended the time to bring a defendant charged with a felony offense to a magistrate judge from 48 hours to 7 days. Justice Cantil-Sakauye’s order takes effect on July 9, 2020. 

Real Estate Foreclosure and “Unlawful Detainer” Actions Remain Suspended. However, the California Judicial Council elected not to lift two other emergency rules which together place a moratorium on unlawful detainer (i.e., holdover tenant) and judicial foreclosure actions except those involving public health and safety. 

Other Emergency Rules Remain in Effect. In addition, a variety of emergency rules will continue in effect, including rules that:

1. allow courts to require remote judicial proceedings except those involving criminal defendants who must consent;

2. prioritize essential matters in juvenile dependency or delinquency proceedings;

3. extend the end date of emergency protective orders, temporary restraining orders, and criminal protective orders expiring during the state of emergency for up to 30 or 90 days depending on the order;

4. toll the statute of limitations for civil actions until 90 days after the state of emergency ends and extend the three-year period to bring a trial by six additional months; and

5. allow remote depositions.

Courts Begin to Reopen on June 22, 2020

California has also begun preparations to reopen its courthouses.  The Los Angeles County Superior Court opened its Clerk’s Office on June 15, 2020, offering telephonic and online options to conduct court business and schedule advance appointments for in-person services.  On June 22, 2020, Los Angeles County courthouses will start resuming all judicial functions with mandatory facemasks and social distancing.  Previously, Los Angeles County courts were open only for essential functions such as civil and family temporary restraining orders, criminal preliminary hearings and arraignments, and probate emergency petitions for temporary conservatorship or guardianship.  Starting June 22, 2020, all hearings, including criminal, civil, unlawful detainer, family law, traffic and non-traffic infractions, and juvenile dependency and delinquency arraignment/detention, will resume according to the following schedule, with remote appearances strongly encouraged:

  • June 22, 2020:  Probate, mental health, juvenile dependency and delinquency, civil (except small claims and collections), and family law hearings
  • June 29, 2020:  Unlawful detainer hearings
  • July 6, 2020: Criminal hearings

Additionally, Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile ordered on June 11, 2020 that all jury and non-jury trials scheduled from June 11, 2020 to July 9, 2020, are continued until further notice along with the associated pre-trial dates.   

New Remote Appearance System

Finally, the Los Angeles County Superior Court has introduced a new system for remote appearances called LACourtConnect (“LACC”) which will replace CourtCall.  Presently, LACC is only available for probate and mandatory settlement conference matters, but it will be expanded to other areas throughout the summer.  The following schedule lays out the dates when appearances can be scheduled under the new system:

  • June 22, 2020:  Probate and settlement cases
  • July 5, 2020:   Civil cases in Spring Street Courthouse
  • July 20, 2020:  Civil cases in Stanley Mosk Courthouse
  • August 3, 2020:  Civil cases in all other courthouses
  • August 10, 2020:  Traffic, small claims, unlawful detainer, and limited civil collection cases
  • August 17, 2020:  Family law cases

If you have questions about bringing and defending actions in California courts, please contact Tricia Legittino at 310 579 9632 or tlegittino@fkks.com, or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Litigation Group.