Courts Decide How to Best Proceed in California as COVID-19 Rises
Throughout California, COVID-19 closures delayed jury trials for nearly three months. Last month, a majority of state courts were beginning to resume services (virtually and in person) as the state began reopening. Unfortunately, the virus has returned to a maxing phase in California as it waxes and wanes across the nation in an alarming upward trend. In an effort to curb this recent resurgence of the coronavirus, California has mandated closures once again. Thankfully for the justice system, this doesn’t mean a return to sweeping courtroom closures. Thanks to video conferencing tools such as CourtCall and Zoom, as well as courtrooms with expanded and enforced social distancing, cleaning and face mask guidelines in place, local judicial systems are deciding for themselves the best ways to stay open and proceed.
Decisions are being made at the local level
In Northern California, a state appeals court recently ruled that preliminary court hearing must proceed as bound after a challenge was filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court, thereby impacting all California jurisdictions. Courts in California, and around the US have struggled with how to proceed safely while ensuring due process and access obligations are carried out to the fullest extent. It appears the safest way is by letting local jurisdictions decide for themselves. Here are a few examples across California:
- In Los Angeles County Superior Court, criminal jury trials are delayed until August due to increased COVID-19 infections and felony arraignment deadlines have been extended-up to seven days in cases where the deadline would have expired July 10 - August 8th. The deadline for criminal trials was extended up to 30 days in cases where the deadline would have expired from July 15 - September 14th. Civil jury trials scheduled to begin by August 8 have been continued.
- LA County Superior Courts were expected to reopen over 400 courtrooms in June with social distancing and mask requirements in strict force for all cases without jury. Instead, remote video and phone proceedings have begun taking place for certain judicial proceedings.
- In Orange County, the Superior Court enacted temporary procedures on June 17 for establishing “good cause” to conduct civil and probate jury trials during the pandemic. Public service windows remain closed, and anyone entering the courthouse is required to wear a face mask. Social distancing rules are strictly enforced in all facilities, and the number of people allowed in public courtrooms and elevators are limited.
- In Alameda County, the courts amended, “emergency Local Rule 5.46 to update its remote settlement conference procedures in Family Law matters, adopted minor clarifying amendments to emergency Local Rule 7.180 concerning Probate proceedings, and updated the Civil/Family/Probate and Criminal FAQs on its COVID-19 web page,” according to a July 10th press release by the Superior Court of California County of Alameda.
What about bail schedules in California?
According to a news release by the CA courts on July 10th, the CA courts announced that at least 29 California counties have kept COVID-19 emergency bail schedules in place. The release states, "The Judicial Council's action better reflects the current needs of our state, which has different health concerns and restrictions county-to-county based on the threat posed by COVID-19," said council member Justice Marsha Slough.
Currently, more than 3 in 4 Californians live in counties with COVID-19 emergency bail schedules after many countries adopted COVID-19 emergency bail schedules with some modifications that have been extended to stay in place past the original June 20th deadline.
What about courts nationwide?
Across the nation local courts and jurisdictions are enacting similar emergency rules and temporary procedures allowing for remote hearings, mandated face coverings and social distancing, closure of in-person services and moving them online, extension of deadlines for criminal trials, emergency bail schedules and encouraging teleconferencing whenever feasible.
Generally, courts are exclusively or mainly using remote/telephonic hearings in California. While there is some degree of chaos, the general consensus among attorneys and county officials is that remote proceedings are the best way to ensure access to the courts while keeping everyone safe during this pandemic.
If you have questions about judicial proceedings in your area, visit your local county judicial website. They will have the most up-to-date information as well as COVID-19 related changes relevant to your jurisdiction.
How does ABC Legal approach the challenge?
At ABC Legal we offer appearance counsel through our subsidiary company Docketly and we have the technology and mobile capabilities to easily adapt during this transformative judicial environment.
Docketly is uniquely positioned to handle the current judicial situation, as they’ve continued to operate through the use of video, audio calls, and in some cases maintaining a physical presence just outside the courthouse (in their vehicles) if/when physical presence is required for any reason. This partnership allows us to offer our customers the technology and mobile capabilities required during this transformative judicial environment. At ABC Legal we are constantly updating our technologies with proprietary AI, helping our customers make better decisions--faster.
About ABC Legal Services
ABC Legal is the nation’s leading process of service and court filing company and is the official process server to the U.S. Department of Justice. ABC Legal’s applications are cloud-based and compatible for use on desktop, browser and smartphones. Our solutions and digital approach ensure process server partners, law firm customers, and their clients save valuable time and resources when serving legal notices safely and with maximum compliance, control and transparency. ABC Legal is based in Seattle, WA with more than 2,000 process servers throughout the U.S., as well as internationally in more than 75 countries. To learn more about ABC Legal and our solutions, visit www.abclegal.com.