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
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: