On Monday, March 23, 2020, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye issued a statewide order suspending all jury trials in California’s superior courts for 60 days and allowing courts to immediately adopt new rules to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chief Justice said her order is aimed at ensuring California courts—which remain open as “essential services” under Gov. Newsom’s stay-home executive order—can meet stringent health directives, such as maintaining a six-foot distance from others, to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Said the Chief Justice: “Courts cannot comply with these health restrictions and continue to operate as they have in the past. 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. Many court facilities in California are ill-equipped to effectively allow the social distancing and other public health requirements required to protect people involved in court proceedings and prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”
She added, “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. These restrictions have also made it nearly impossible for courts to assemble juries.”
Her order includes the following directives:
- All jury trials are suspended and continued for 60 days. Courts may conduct a trial at an earlier date upon finding of good cause shown or through use of remote technology when appropriate.
- Time periods to begin criminal and civil trials is extended for 60 days, though courts may conduct trials earlier upon finding of good cause or through remote technology when appropriate.
- Superior courts are authorized to adopt any proposed rules or rule amendment intended to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to take effect immediately, without advance circulation for public comment. A court adopting any such rule change must immediately distribute it, and no litigant’s substantive rights shall be prejudiced for failing to comply with the requirements of a new or amended rule until at least 20 days after its distribution.