VIA TELECONFERENCE—The Judicial Council today approved temporary emergency measures to continue essential court services such as protecting the rights and needs of the accused in a safe way while guarding the health and safety of the public, court employees, attorneys, litigants, judicial officers, law enforcement, and staff and inmates in detention facilities. The measures can be found in recommendations A and B of the council report.

“Together we must play our part in “flattening the curve” for our state and nation as this pandemic evolves,” said Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye. “But we also must preserve the rule of law, to protect the rights and liberties of all Californians, as all state government strives to protect their health and wellbeing.”

During the hourlong special meeting held by phone, the council unanimously approved the following measures, extended 90 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted to help alleviate backlogs:

  • Extend the 10 court day period for holding a preliminary hearing and the defendant’s right of release to 30 court days;
  • Extend the time period in which a defendant charged with a felony offense shall be taken before a judicial officer from 48 hours to not more than 7 days;
  • Extend the time period for holding a criminal trial by more than 30 days; and
  • Extend the time period to bring an action to trial by more than 30 days.

In addition to temporarily extending statutory deadlines, the council also directed the superior courts to:

  • Make use of technology, when possible, to conduct judicial proceedings and court operations remotely. This includes the use of video, audio, and telephone for remote appearances, reporting, and interpreting in judicial proceedings, the electronic exchange and authentication of documents in evidence, and the use of e-filing and e-service; and
  • In criminal and juvenile proceedings, including arraignments and preliminary hearings, prioritize use of technology to ensure defendants are not held in custody, and children are not held in custody or removed from the custody of their parents or guardians, without timely due process of law or in violation of constitutional rights.

The Council received almost 60 public comments in response to Saturday’s emergency meeting. Judicial Council Administrative Director Martin Hoshino said the emergency meeting likely won’t be the last as the pandemic continues. “Everything is number one on our list, but we have to deal with them in some order.”

“No need, no right overlooked,” Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye said.

The council’s actions follow the Governor’s emergency order empowering the council and Chief Justice to take necessary temporary action to enable the courts to conduct business and continue to operate while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In her statement on the Governor’s order, the Chief Justice expressed her appreciation and assurance that “we will assume this responsibility with utmost care and judiciousness.”

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View the full notice here.

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