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Judicial Council adopts rules to lower jail population, suspend evictions and foreclosures 

Many inmates not serving sentence to be released with no bail

–At its meeting yesterday, the California Judicial Council approved 11 temporary emergency rules, including setting bail statewide at $0 for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies to “safely reduce jail populations” and staying eviction and foreclosure proceedings to protect Californians from losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the second emergency council meeting of court and branch leaders from around the state to consider further measures to ensure California courts—which remain open as “essential services” under Gov. Newsom’s stay-home executive order—can meet stringent health directives while also providing due process and access to justice.

The council received and considered more than 100 written comments on the new rules from judges, public defenders, district attorneys, law enforcement, legal aid and advocacy groups, unions, attorneys, court reporters, interpreters, and other justice system partners.

Among the actions the council approved, to go into effect immediately:

  • Suspend the entry of defaults in eviction cases;
  • Suspend judicial foreclosures;
  • Allow courts to require judicial proceedings and court operations be conducted remotely, with the defendant’s consent in criminal proceedings;
  • Adopt a statewide emergency bail schedule that sets bail at $0 for most misdemeanor and lower-level felony offenses;
  • Allow defendants to appear via counsel or remote technologies for pretrial criminal hearings;
  • Prioritize hearings and orders in juvenile justice proceedings and set a structure for remote hearings and continuances
  • Extend the timeframes for specified temporary restraining orders;
  • Extend the statutes of limitations governing civil actions; and
  • Allow electronic depositions in civil cases.

 

The council previously approved a number of temporary measures at its first emergency meeting Mar. 28 to give courts flexibility to continue to provide essential services to the public while protecting health and safety during the pandemic.

“We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law, or precedent,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the council. “And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation. In developing these rules, we listened to suggestions from our justice system partners, the public, and the courts, and we greatly appreciate all of the input. Working with our court stakeholders, I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice. It’s truly a team effort.”

“While extraordinary emergencies require extraordinary measures, mass release of jail inmates may increase crime in our communities,” said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow. “I am hopeful that the Judicial Council’s new emergency rules do not unintentionally cause further harm to vulnerable labor trafficking victims, children, or elders in our communities who have already been identified as victims of crime. We have urged the council to add human trafficking, child abuse, and elder abuse to the exceptions to zero bail, but sadly they did not adopt our recommendations. Our victim advocates will continue to do everything we can to assist and protect victims, especially at this critical time when their abusers are to be released from custody. I must also add that I am extremely grateful that the court is now allowing us to conduct video conference hearings in court with attorneys and parties in various locations to minimize human interaction during the COVID-19 health emergency. This is critical to safeguarding the health of all who need access to and come within the justice system.”

For a complete list of emergency orders taken by the California court system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, see the California Courts newsroom.

 

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.