California Lawyers Association

California Laws: What’s New for 2023

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Dozens of new laws recently took effect that are of interest to California lawyers. Ensure you’re up to speed on the changes, some of which are highlighted below. These laws went into effect on January 1, 2023, unless otherwise stated.  

CLA Sections

CLA’s Sections had a successful year with their advocacy.

The State Bar

AB 2958 (Committee on Judiciary) authorized the State Bar of California to collect an annual license fee for lawyers, due February 1. The legislation also contains other provisions relating to the State Bar, including limitations on the State Bar’s exploration of a regulatory sandbox  and the licensing of non-attorneys as paraprofessionals.

Court Proceedings

On July 1, 2023, a 2021 law that allows parties and witnesses in civil cases to appear remotely is set to expire. Two bills have been introduced that would extend that date to January 1, 2026: SB 21 (Umberg) and SB 22 (Umberg).

A Judicial Council working group — appointed to develop recommendations to the Legislature and Governor for a statewide framework for remote civil court proceedings and court reporter availability and workforce — issued a report that identified strong support for making remote proceedings available, but not mandatory, in all civil case types under certain circumstances. The report also included recommendations addressing other issues, including court reporter availability and official records of proceedings.

Saul Bercovitch, Associate Executive Director for Governmental Affairs for the California Lawyers Association, served on the working group composed of judges, court executive officers, attorneys, court reporters, court interpreters, legal aid organizations, and court-appointed dependency counsel.

AB 156 (Committee on Budget) allows court reporters to use voice writing, in which court reporters use their voices to keep an accurate record of court proceedings. 

AB 1576 (Committee on Judiciary) requires superior courts to provide court users access to a lactation room that is accessible to the public and court employees. 

AB 1655 (Jones-Sawyer) adds June 19, known as Juneteenth, as a California state holiday and judicial holiday where courts are closed. 

AB 1981 (Lee) increases the travel reimbursement that jurors receive to include roundtrip mileage, not just travel to court, and provides jurors free access to public transportation or reimbursement of up to $12 per day. A pilot program allows the judicial branch to study whether increased juror per diem rates improve juror participation.

SB 836 (Wiener) re-enacts 2018 legislation prohibiting the disclosure of a person’s immigration status in public court proceedings unless the presiding judge has determined it is relevant. The law became effective when it was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in August.

SB 1338 (Umberg) creates the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment Act (CARE Act) to provide a civil court-based mental health services engagement and oversight program for individuals with schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders. 

Criminal Law and Procedure

AB 256 (Kalra) makes the Racial Justice Act — which prohibits the state from seeking a criminal conviction or sentence on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin — retroactive. Petitions alleging a violation may be filed for cases in which a judgment was entered before January 1, 2021.

AB 2147 (Ting) prohibits a peace officer from stopping and citing a pedestrian for jaywalking unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.

AB 2167 (Kalra) requires a court to consider alternatives to incarceration, including collaborative justice court programs, diversion, restorative justice, and probation.

AB 2023 (Bennett) requires sheriffs, when releasing people from county jails, to provide them with release standards, processes, and schedules. The person must also have access to up to three free phone calls from the jail to play for a safe and successful release.

AB 2242 (Santiago) requires the State Department of Health Care Services to create a model care coordination plan to be followed when discharging those held under temporary holds or conservatorships. 

AB 2275 (Wood) clarifies the rights of people who are involuntarily detained for mental health treatment.

AB 2799 (Jones-Sawyer) prohibits prosecutors from using creative expressions such as rap lyrics as character evidence against defendants unless the expressions are tied to a specific crime or provide information otherwise not available to the public.

SB 357 (Wiener) repeals the crime of loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution and provides remedies to people who have been convicted of the offense.

Civil Law and Procedure

AB 35 (Reyes) makes significant changes to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) by 1) restructuring MICRA’s limit on attorney fees; and 2) raising MICRA’s cap on noneconomic damages, and making specified statements, writings, or benevolent gestures expressing sympathy, regret, a general sense of benevolence, or suggesting, reflecting, or accepting fault in the provision of health care that are made to either the person who received the health care, or to the family or representative of that person, confidential, privileged, not subject to subpoena or discovery, and inadmissible.

AB 1594 (Ting) establishes a firearm industry standard of conduct, beginning July 1, 2023, and authorizes a person who has suffered harm in California, the Attorney General, or city or county attorneys to bring a civil action against a firearm industry member for an act or omission in violation of the firearm industry standard of conduct, as specified.

AB 2391 (Cunningham) authorizes a person protected by a domestic violence protective order to seek an order declaring the restrained person a vexatious litigant if, while the restraining order is still in place, they commence, prosecute, or maintain litigation against the person protected by the restraining order that is determined to be meritless and causes the person protected by the order to be harassed or intimidated.

AB 2777 (Wicks) revives otherwise time-barred claims for damages arising from sexual assault, as specified.

AB 2961 (Committee on Judiciary) cleans up and reorganizes Code of Civil Procedure section 1010.6 to clarify when electronic service is mandatory and when it is permissive. It also clarifies when electronic filing and service fees must be waived. 

SB 1056 (Umberg) requires a social media platform with one million or more monthly users to clearly and conspicuously state whether it has a mechanism for reporting violent posts and authorizes a person who is the target of a violent post to seek an order requiring the social media platform to remove the violent post and any related violent post the court determines shall be removed in the interests of justice.

SB 1155 (Caballero) establishes a statutory framework for “time-limited” demands made prior to the filing of a complaint or demand for arbitration to settle claims covered by liability insurance.

SB 1200 (Skinner) establishes restrictions on the renewal of money judgments, reduces the interest rate applied to outstanding judgments, and extends the period of time within which a judgment debtor can move to vacate or modify a renewal, as specified.

Additional Resources

During the second year of the 2021–2022 Legislative Session, the Legislature and Governor enacted numerous bills that affect the courts or are of general interest to the judicial branch. Learn more from the Judicial Council of California here.

Governor Newsom has highlighted landmark and other notable new bills signed into law in 2022 that went into effect on January 1.

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