On Friday, April 10, the Presiding Judges of Los Angeles Superior Court held a teleconference and made the following important announcements about the Court’s likely calendar and the future handling of trials and hearings:
- Criminal cases will have priority when courts reopen, because of constitutional rights and fear of disease among incarcerated. This will delay civil trials.
- During the current emergency period, the only civil matter that will be heard are ex partes for true emergencies. Not discovery, not demurrers, not summary judgment.
- June 22 is the target ramp-up date for civil matters. The date may slip. Details of the ramp up are still being worked out.
- While trials and filings are being suspended during the emergency period, this court has not declared all of those days “court holidays,” meaning that the effect on deadlines keyed to trial dates or the date of judgment is as of now uncertain. Other California superior courts (e.g. Alameda), as allowed by the Chief Justice, have declared the days they are closed court holidays.
Here are some questions and answers:
Q: Are trial dates suspended through June 22? A: Not formally right now, but yes, they will be suspended.
Q. When will jury trials resume again? A: Maybe late August. The first civil cases the court will deal with are preference cases. All civil cases will be delayed due to the huge backlog of criminal trials, which will absorb a lot of jurors. The court will still have to deal with social distancing when we get back, including the potential reconfiguration of courtrooms. It is hard to socially distance in a jury box.
Q. What happens to pre-trial dates for trials set in the interim period? A. All pre-trial dates will be governed by a new trial date. No discovery cutoffs or summary judgment deadlines will expire based on the prior trial dates. Notice will be sent by mail, not by email.
Q. Will law and motion be done remotely after June 22? A. Yes, but not for a long time because the court does not have enough capacity and other cases have priority. Probably not this year.
Q. Are motions set for hearing by June 22 to be continued? A: Yes, but do we not know when yet.
Q. Why no law and motion hearings during emergency period? After all, there are no jurors or witnesses involved. A. Even if remote appearance is possible for counsel, it would still require onsite court staff.
Q. Any settlement conferences? A. No. Court buildings are closed. No settlement conferences, even by remote. When courts re-open, though, the settlement judges may have remote capability.
Q. Is court attire required for remote appearances? A. During emergency, business casual dress is now allowed.
The judges’ parting thoughts: “Take care of your staff. Take care of people around you. Take care of yourselves.”