March 31, 2020

Court COVID-19 Update: Five-Year Statutes Extended, Technology Use Encouraged, More Changes Coming

By Don Willenburg, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani and Chris Johnson, Maranga * Morgenstern, ADC Bench-Bar Liaisons

Consistent with Governor Newsom’s order last Friday authorizing the Judicial Council to take extraordinary measures and the Judicial Council’s actions this weekend, the Chief Justice has issued a further order to address the coronavirus crisis. Most relates to criminal and family matters. The Chief Justice and others emphasized that that was a matter of triage, and welcomed further public comment on matters related to civil and other areas.

The order affects civil actions in three main ways:

1. The Chief Justice extended the five-year statute to bring an action to trial, Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.320, by 60 days.

2. The Chief Justice clarified her prior order continuing jury trials for 60 days to mean 60 days from the date for which trial was set (not until 60 days from the date of the prior order).

3. The Chief Justice directed the superior courts to:

‘Make use of available technology, when possible, to conduct judicial proceedings and court operations remotely, in order to protect the health and safety of the public, court personnel, judicial officers, litigants, and witnesses. This includes the use of video, audio, and telephonic means for remote appearances, reporting, and interpreting in judicial proceedings, the electronic exchange and authentication of documentary evidence, and the use of e-filing and e-service.’

The order did not address questions many civil practitioners have had about the Chief Justice’s prior order “continuing and suspending” all civil jury trials 60 days, such as (a) what is the effect on pretrial deadlines keyed off the trial date – how are we supposed to do discovery during shelter in place and (b) will plaintiffs with preferential trial dates under Code of Civil Procedure section 36 be allowed a “good cause” exception so their trials may continue. Helpful to the defense position on that point: At the Judicial Council meeting this weekend (telephonic, of course), that Chief Justice emphasized that all the actions being undertaken were to prevent the courts becoming vectors and to protect those doing or engaged in the court’s business.

Nevertheless, “[w]e are courts, and courts are open in crisis.” Also: “extensions are not a license to wait,” but to be used as necessary so the courts can conduct business and observe social distancing.

The civil issues that Council members suggested were next up to be addressed: unlawful detainers and foreclosures.

A copy of the report containing the recommendations leading up to the order is HERE .

If there are points you think the Judicial Council should consider in connection with COVID-19 and civil cases, share them on the ADC general listserv, and feel free to send directly to the Judicial Council:
A Message from the President

By Renée Welze Livingston
President, ADC

Dear ADC Members,

Your valued membership in the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California and Nevada (ADC) automatically makes you a member of the California Defense Counsel (CDC). CDC is the political and legislative arm of the ADC and our sister organization in the south, the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel. The current President of CDC is former ADC President David Daniels of Roseville. CDC is the only organization in Sacramento exclusively dedicated to representing the interests of civil defense practitioners in California.

In the unprecedented times we find ourselves, CDC is working with the Judicial Council and Governor’s office to protect access to justice in light of court closures and limited availability of court services. The CDC and the Consumer Attorneys of California jointly submitted a MEMORANDUM , requesting Governor Newsom to issue an emergency order addressing several importa nt issues.   This memorandum was the subject of the Daily Journal’s lead article last Friday. 
Since this memorandum was sent, Governor Newsom issued this ORDER on Friday, March 27, 2020 enabling California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to take emergency actions for the state’s courts to be able to conduct business during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yesterday, March 30, 2020, the Chief Justice issued this ORDER which is further described in the adjacent column.

The CDC will continue to work on your behalf and work closely with the Plaintiff’s Bar and the Judicial Council on issues relating to civil practice and key litigation issues. Please watch for additional information to arrive as we are made aware of it.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with suggestions, questions or concerns. It is times like these when the defense voice in Sacramento is most important. Thank you also for your support of ADC.

Let us all hope that the coronavirus emergency passes as quickly as possible, permitting us a return to normalcy in representing our clients.

Thank you for your continued membership in ADC.