Unprecedented Times Take Unprecedented Measures: How California Courts are Taking Immediate Action

There is no doubt that we are living in unprecedented times. Amidst the chaos, California Courts are navigating these uncharted waters by issuing orders and amendments to rules to protect the health and safety of the public, staff, lawyers, and litigants. Court closures across the state have created many uncertainties on the handling of civil matters.

On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California amended the California Rules of Court to address many questions arising from the recent Court closures. These recent amendments to the California Rules of Court are effective immediately and are intended to address the growing disruption and confusion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the new California Emergency Rules of Court have a sunset period of 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.

Below are some highlights of the recent changes in the civil arena:

Emergency Rule 1. Unlawful Detainers:

A court may not issue a summons on a complaint for unlawful detainer unless the court finds, in its discretion and on the record, that the action is necessary to protect public health and safety. A court may not enter a default or a default judgment for restitution in an unlawful detainer action for failure of defendant to appear unless the court finds both of the following:

  • The action is necessary to protect public health and safety; and
  • The defendant has not appeared in the action within the time provided by law, including by any applicable executive order.

Emergency Rule 2. Judicial Foreclosures:

This rule applies to any action for foreclosure on a mortgage or deed of trust brought under chapter 1, title 10, of part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, beginning at section 725a, including any action for a deficiency judgment, and provides that, until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until this rule is amended or repealed by the Judicial Council:

(1) All such actions are stayed, and the court may take no action and issue no decisions or judgments unless the court finds that action is required to further the public health and safety.

(2) Any statute of limitations for filing such an action is tolled.

(3) The period for electing or exercising any rights under that chapter, including exercising any right of redemption from a foreclosure sale or petitioning the court in relation to such a right, is extended.

Emergency Rule 3. Remote Appearances:

The Court must conduct Court operations remotely, which includes, but is not limited to, the use of video, audio, and telephone means for remote appearances; the electronic and authentication of documentary evidence; e-filing and e-service; the use of remote interpreting; and the use of the remote reporting and electronic recording to make the official record of an action or proceeding.

This rule sunsets 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.

Emergency Rule 8. Emergency orders; temporary restraining and protective orders:

Notwithstanding any other law, this rule applies to any emergency protective order, temporary restraining order, or criminal protective order that was requested, issued, or set to expire during the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any temporary restraining order or gun violence emergency protective order, issued or set to expire during the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, must be continued for a period of time that the court determines is sufficient to allow for a hearing on the long-term order to occur, for up to 90 days.

Any restraining order or protective order after hearing that is set to expire during the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic must be automatically extended for up to 90 days from the date of expiration to enable a protected party to seek a renewal of the restraining order.

Emergency rule 9.  Toll the statutes of limitations for civil causes of action:

Notwithstanding any other law, the statutes of limitation for civil causes of action are tolled from April 6, 2020, until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted.

Emergency rule 10.  Extensions of time in which to bring a civil action to trial:

(a) Extension of five years in which to bring a civil action to trial

Notwithstanding any other law, including Code of Civil Procedure section 583.310, for all civil actions filed on or before April 6, 2020, the time in which to bring the action to trial is extended by six months for a total time of five years and six months.

(b) Extension of three years in which to bring a new trial

Notwithstanding any other law, including Code of Civil Procedure section 583.320, for all civil actions filed on or before April 6, 2020, if a new trial is granted in the action, the three years provided in section 583.320 in which the action must again be brought to trial is extended by six months for a total time of three years and six months. Nothing in this subdivision requires that an action must again be brought to trial before expiration of the time prescribed in (a).

Emergency rule 11.  Depositions through remote electronic means

A party or nonparty deponent, at their election or the election of the deposition party, can appear remotely at deposition. This rule will remain in effect until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted, or until amended or repealed by the Judicial Council.

The full text of the Judicial Council of California’s Emergency Rules can be found at: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/2020-04-06-rules-effective-04-06-2020.pdf. Reid & Hellyer, APC remain committed in keeping you informed on the ever-evolving orders and rules implemented by the Courts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and its attorneys are available to address your questions.