California Judicial Council Adopts New Rules to Adapt Judicial Proceedings to Statewide Social Distancing Directives

Oakland, CA – Knowing that courts cannot operate as usual in light of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, the California Judicial Council amended its Rules of Court to accommodate statewide court closures and restrictions. The sweeping changes come on the heels of Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 27 Executive Order, which granted courts with special authority to promptly address the coronavirus threat in their counties.

Effective April 6, 2020, the 11 emergency rules implement various controls targeted at reducing the spread of the virus and complying with the recommendations of health officials. Specific rules affecting civil matters include the following:

  • allowing courts to conduct judicial operations remotely, including but not limited to, requiring video, audio, or telephonic appearances, electronic
  • exchange and authentication of documents, and remote reporting;
  • tolling the statute of limitations for civil causes of action until 90 days after Governor Newsom lifts the COVID-19 emergency order;
  • extending the deadline in which to bring a civil action to trial by six months; and
  • permitting the remote appearance of a party deponent outside the presence of a deposition officer.

The new rules do not directly require remote operations, but permit local courts to implement such measures as appropriate. Accordingly, litigants must remain apprised of court-specific changes and ensure that they have the technological capacity to participate in remote proceedings.

Each rule will remain in effect until 90 days after the Governor lifts the emergency order relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, or as otherwise amended. A complete text of the rules can be found here.

McDowell Hetherington continues to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on litigation in California and throughout the country. For further information, please contact McDowell Hetherington attorneys Jodi Swick or Colleen Flaherty.