California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on March 23 suspended all criminal and civil trials in the state’s superior courts for 60 days in an effort to curb the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The order affects all 58 superior courts across California. Local courts, however, can choose to conduct some business—just not jury trials.
As “essential services,” courts are exempt from Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent stay-at-home executive order.
The Chief Justice said in her order that courts are “ill-equipped to effectively allow the social distancing and other public health requirements” imposed by the Governor’s executive order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Court proceedings require gatherings of court staff, litigants, attorneys, witnesses, and juries, well in excess of the numbers allowed for gathering under current executive and health orders,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “Even if court facilities could allow for sufficient social-distancing, the closure of schools means that many court employees, litigants, witnesses, and potential jurors cannot leave their homes to attend court proceedings because they must stay home to supervise their children.”
Details of the Order
The Chief Justice’s order includes the following directives, which went into effect on March 23:
• All jury trials are suspended and continued for 60 days.
• The time period to begin criminal and civil trials is extended for 60 days.
• Superior courts are authorized to adopt any proposed rules or rule amendment intended to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to take effect immediately, without advance circulation for public comment.
Courts may conduct a trial at an earlier date, however, upon a finding of “good cause shown,” or via remote technology when appropriate.