(TNS) — All jury trials in California’s superior courts have been suspended for 60 days so the courts can meet stringent health directives to slow the coronavirus spread and the respiratory illness it causes.
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued the statewide order Monday aimed at allowing courts to immediately adopt new rules to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the news release.
The state courts have remained open as “essential services” under California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. The trial suspension will allow the courts to meet these guidelines, such as maintaining a 6-foot distance from others.
“Courts cannot comply with these health restrictions and continue to operate as they have in the past,” Cantil-Sakauye said in the release. “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 said court staff, litigants, attorneys, witnesses and juries are required to gather in courtrooms and courthouses, far exceeding the numbers allowed for gathering under current executive and health orders.
Creating enough social distancing space in courthouses isn’t the only problem. Cantil-Sakauye said school closures due to the coronavirus means that many court employees, litigants and witnesses can’t leave their children alone at home.
“These restrictions have also made it nearly impossible for courts to assemble juries,” the chief justice said.
Under Cantil-Sakauye’s Order:
All scheduled trials are postponed for 60 days. Courts may conduct a trial at an earlier date if good cause is presented to the court or through use of remote technology when appropriate.
The time periods to begin criminal and civil trials is extended for 60 days, though courts may conduct trials earlier with good cause or through remote technology when appropriate.
Superior courts are authorized to adopt any proposed rules or rule amendment that is intended to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will go into effect immediately without advance circulation for 45 days of public comment. A court adopting any such rule change must immediately distribute the new or amended rule, 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 the rule change has been distributed.
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