Calif. Judicial Council Mulls Rollback Of Pandemic Rules

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (June 9, 2020, 10:41 PM EDT) -- The California Judicial Council is considering a rollback of emergency rules related to bail, evictions and foreclosures that were put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying more flexibility is needed as various parts of the state are reopening at different paces.

The council sent out two circulating orders on Monday asking members to vote on putting an Aug. 3 sunset date on emergency rules that suspended evictions and judicial foreclosures, and repealing a temporary bail schedule that set bail for most misdemeanors and low-level felonies at $0 in an attempt to reduce jail populations.

Judicial Council Administrative Director Martin Hoshino said Monday in a news release that the rules had "achieved their goals."

"As a result, 51 California counties and our courthouses have started a phased, safe reopening," Hoshino said. "A statewide rule no longer serves our need to be flexible and responsive based on local health conditions."

The votes are supposed to be submitted by Wednesday, according to the circulating orders.

The rules slated for a vote are part of a package of measures rolled out earlier this year that also included extending the statute of limitations in civil matters and allowing courts to require that proceedings be held remotely.

The judicial council has already tweaked the rule on the statute of limitations, and hinted in the Monday announcement that further changes could be coming. However, the body also noted that it "may re-institute these measures if health conditions worsen or change."

Last month, the council started a Pandemic Continuity of Operations Working Group to study best practices and publish a framework for the state's 58 superior courts to keep the judicial system operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On June 3, the group published a "resource guide" that it said would be continuously updated as the situation evolves.

"This is version 1.0, and we expect to keep updating it over the next several months," the council's Chief Operating Officer Rob Oyung said at the time in a news release.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the chief judge of New York's state courts ordered judges in New York City back to the courthouses starting Wednesday as part of a first phase of reopening after nearly three months of limited, remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

--Additional reporting by Dave Simpson, Craig Clough and Frank G. Runyeon. Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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