Novel Coronavirus and the Courts

By Rian W. Jones, Esq.

Courts That Were Temporarily Closed Have Now Reopened or Will Reopen Soon
Because of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic and the associated orders issued by the Governor and local government authorities, the Superior Courts in the state have largely been closed since the second week in March. To make sure that no legal rights are lost, the courts have ordered that the period during which they have been closed is deemed to be a Court Holiday for purposes of computing the time for filing papers with the court pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 12 and 12a. This means that, with few exceptions, any deadline for filing a pleading was extended until after the courts reopen.

  • Court Opening Dates:
  • San Diego County Superior Court and Orange County Superior Court reopened on May 26, 2020.
  • Riverside County Superior Court is scheduled to reopen on June 8, 2020.
  • San Bernardino County Superior Court is scheduled to reopen today, May 29, 2020.
  • Los Angeles County Superior Court is scheduled to reopen on June 10, 2020.

Court Closures Have Created a Backlog
The extended closure of the courts has created a huge backlog of cases. Criminal cases will take priority. We are starting to receive notices from the courts regarding the rescheduling of trials and other hearings. Cases that had a trial scheduled during the shutdown are being set for trial in late 2020 or early 2021. All other hearings that were scheduled during the shutdown were summarily canceled and we will have to refile motions and seek a new hearing date. This means that our clients currently involved in litigation will see a delay in the resolution of their cases.

Most Hearings Will Be Held via Telephone or Video Conference for the Time Being
While the courts are reopened or reopening soon, they are reopening with restrictions on personal appearances. Most personal appearances are not allowed and, for the time being, most hearings will be held via conference call or video conference depending on the County. The courts are still working out the details for this.

CourtCall is the approved service that is used to make telephonic appearances in some jurisdictions. There is a fee associated with the use of this service (generally less than $100.00). It is not clear yet whether or not some or all of the counties will provide a free service for telephone or video conference appearances during the restriction on personal appearances. Our clients may see a line item on their monthly billing statement for legal fees for a CourtCall fee. While this is an additional cost of litigation, it is offset by the fact that the attorney does not have to bill time for traveling to and from the courthouse for the hearing. This will likely result in a net savings to the client.

While it is preferable to be physically in the courtroom for a hearing, especially on a motion that is opposed by the other side, the reality of the current situation does not allow for personal appearances just now. Most of the counties anticipate the resumption of jury trials in the 4th quarter of 2020. However, that is subject to review by the presiding judge in consultation with local health officers.

Remote Mediations and Settlement Conferences
Most private mediators are now offering remote mediations as a way to try to resolve cases without a trial. While not all cases are adaptable to this type of Alternative Dispute Resolution, we will make the appropriate recommendation to our clients on a case-by-case basis if we believe that a remote mediation via video conference would be beneficial. Some of the courts are also trying to develop a method of Judicially supervised settlement conferences via video conference.

Adapting to the New Normal
The way we practice litigation has been affected by this pandemic and it is yet to be seen how long these restrictions will last.

The attorneys at Epsten, APC are working for our clients’ best interests and will stay informed of all changes to the rules in every jurisdiction in which we practice. If you have an active litigation matter being handled by our firm, please feel free to reach out to the handling attorney if you have any specific questions regarding you case.

Keywords: Covid-19, Coronavirus