The Judicial Council of California approved 11 temporary emergency measures Monday, including one to set bail to zero in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The measure directs judges to remove bail fines for misdemeanor cases and low-level felonies, as the state moves to reduce jail populations amid spread of COVID-19, the Judicial Council said after a telephone meeting.
The decision comes after Los Angeles County implemented a zero-bail measure last week, which also aimed to reduce the number of people in county jails and courthouses, according to a statement from Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Monday’s emergency approvals also included the following actions, 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
- Allow electronic depositions in civil cases
The emergency meeting was the second one for court and branch leaders in responding to the pandemic, after California courts were deemed an “essential service” under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. Some courts in the state are delaying trials and even temporarily closing their doors.
In a previous meeting, on March 28, the council approved a number of other temporary measures, including to give courts flexibility to continue to provide essential services to the public.
“We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law, or precedent,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the council, said. “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.”
For a full list of emergency orders taken by the state’s court system in response to the coronavirus pandemic, visit https://newsroom.courts.ca.gov/coronavirus-updates.