COVID-19 and the Bay Area Court “Holidays”

COVID-19 and the Bay Area Court “Holidays”

By Michael Fleming

On March 23, 2020, California’s Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, issued an unprecedented order and suspended all Superior Court jury trials in California for 60 days because of the coronavirus outbreak. In turn, courts throughout California began to enact their own closures and restrictions, and also began to reschedule hearings. As each Superior Court has adopted its own protocol, this blog seeks to help litigants and counsel locate the appropriate order for their case and explain differences among the orders. Court-ordered “holiday” dates are posted at the bottom of this blog.

Context for the present situation comes from California Government Code section 68115, which provides the Presiding Judge of a California Superior Court with the ability to declare dates as “holidays” for the purposes of computing time under Section 12 and 12(a) of the California Code of Civil Procedure. Typically, this can only be done “[w]hen war, an act of terrorism, public unrest or calamity, epidemic, natural disaster, or other substantial risk to the health and welfare of court personnel or the public” threatens the orderly operation of a Superior Court location.

Section 12(a) of the California Code of Civil Procedure states as follows: “[i]f the last day for the performance of any act provided or required by law to be performed within a specified period of time is a holiday, then that period is hereby extended to and including the next day that is not a holiday. For purposes of this section, ‘holiday’ means all day on Saturdays, all holidays specified in Section 135 and, to the extent provided in Section 12b, all days that by terms of Section 12b are required to be considered as holidays.”

Below is a discussion of each Bay Area court’s order on closures and restrictions:

San Francisco Superior Court

San Francisco’s order is one of the broadest orders in the Bay Area.

Prior to the Chief Justice’s order on March 24, 2020, the Presiding Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court had requested an emergency order pursuant to California Government Code section 68115. On March 19, 2020, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye granted the San Francisco Superior Court’s request. On the same day, the San Francisco Superior Court announced that it would deem March 18, 2020 to April 15, 2020 as holidays for purposes of computing time under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1167 (which addresses the five-day period where a defendant must respond to a complaint in an unlawful detainer action).

In line with the Chief Justice’s order on March 23, 2020, the San Francisco Superior Court issued a subsequent order on March 24, 2020, which can be found here. Notably, the order expanded the number and type of deadlines to be affected by the March 18, 2020 to April 15, 2020 holiday period. Such deadlines include:

  • The time to respond to a Complaint or Cross-Complaint;
  • The time to file a Motion to Quash, a Motion to Strike, and an Anti-SLAPP Motion;
  • The time in which to respond to discovery, including the time to file objections to discovery, Motions for Protective Order, or a Motion to Compel Discovery;
  • The time to file, hear, and rule on any post-trial motions;
  • The time for the Court to issue a judgment notwithstanding the verdict pursuant to C.C.P. 629 et seq.

The most notable extension is the “time in which to respond to discovery.” While somewhat ambiguous, our interpretation is that the Court has extended a party’s deadline to respond to any form of written discovery to April 16, 2020, the first “non-holiday” date. In line with this, parties wanting to file objections to discovery, a Motion for Protective Order, or a Motion to Compel Discovery could wait until April 16, 2020 to file. However, since the San Francisco Superior Court has not restricted filings, parties could respond to discovery and file moving papers prior to April 16, 2020.

Alameda Superior Court

Alameda Superior Court requested emergency power under California Government Code section 68115 on March 17, 2020, and closed its courthouses effective that date. Unlike San Francisco Superior Court, the Alameda Superior Court “holiday” dates begin on March 17, 2020 and are scheduled to end on April 3, 2020. The order can be found here.

Alameda Superior Court has suspended its Fax Filing Service and announced that its Civil department would not accept any filings from March 17, 2020 to April 3, 2020. In addition, any civil matters or hearings on calendar between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020 will not take place. If you have a matter during this time period, the matter will be reset and you will receive a notice of the new hearing date. The likely outcome will be packed dockets and continuances for many cases, once hearings resume.

It is also worth noting that while Court records may be accessible using the DomainWeb portal, the Alameda Superior Court’s records office will be closed during the “holiday” period. While this may not matter as much for the Civil side, it may impact access to some of the filings in your case.

The Alameda Superior Court will continue to accept Temporary Restraining Orders by drop-box filing at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland or at the drop-box at the Hayward Hall of Justice. Court staff will notify petitioners by telephone when their TRO’s have been ruled on, and documents will be available in a pick-up box at the Hayward Hall of Justice. It is unclear if an individual can pick up a completed TRO at the Oakland courthouse.

Santa Clara Superior Court

The Santa Clara Superior Court also made a request for emergency power on March 18, 2020. The Santa Clara Superior Court issued two orders with regard to holiday dates. Its initial order addressed the computation of time under the Penal Code, which is outside the scope of this blog. The order applying to Civil cases can be found here. Santa Clara has the shortest holiday period, which ranges from March 17, 2020 to March 27, 2020. This means that any deadline that would otherwise fall between March 17, 2020 to March 27, 2020 will now fall due on March 30, 2020. In addition, the order grants Santa Clara Superior Court judges with the authority to extend the time period provided in Section 583.310 and 583.320 (Deadline to bring cases to trial).

Contra Costa Superior Court

The Contra Costa Superior Court closed its locations on March 16, 2020 and stated that it “hopes” to reopen by April 1, 2020. However, in its order (found here), the Court provided that the dates from March 16, 2020 to April 1, 2020, would be deemed “holidays.” Unlike Santa Clara Superior Court, the Contra Costa Superior Court automatically granted an extension by not more than 15 days to any case subject to the provisions in Section 583.310 and 583.320.

San Mateo Superior Court

San Mateo Superior Court designated “holidays” from March 16, 2020, through March 31, 2020. The order can be found here. Interestingly, the San Mateo Superior Court allowed “Court sessions to be held anywhere in the county, including in correctional and juvenile detention facilities, from March 16, 2020 through April 14, 2020.

All trials that were currently in session are now suspended until April 13, 2020. In addition, if a matter is subject to the provisions in Section 583.310 and 583.320, an automatic 30-day extension has been granted.

1st District Court of Appeal

Unlike the Superior Courts, the 1st District Court of Appeal has not exercised its emergency power to deem “holiday” dates. Instead, the 1st District Court of Appeal has ordered that any “act required or permitted under the California Rules of Court is hereby extended by thirty additional days.” No application for an extension is required. However, it is important to note that the extension only applies to deadlines occurring between March 18, 2020 through April 17, 2020.

The 1st District Court of Appeal remains open for paper filings (through the secure drop-box at the entrance to the clerk’s office). In addition, the 1st District Court of Appeal is operating with a reduced staff, so response times may be delayed.

Finally, all in-person oral arguments have been suspended. If counsel wishes to present oral argument, they are required to do so telephonically.

Northern District of California

Unlike the state courts, the Northern District of California (“NDCA”) has not established any “holiday” dates as they are not subject to California Government Code section 68115. However, the NDCA has implemented many new guidelines which will affect civil proceedings. General Order 72 can be found here and General Order 73 can be found here:

  • No jury trials will be commenced before May 1, 2020. Any trial currently scheduled from March 16, 2020 to May 1, 2020 is vacated;
  • All civil matters will be decided on the papers. In the event the judge believes a hearing is necessary, the hearing will be held via telephone or videoconference;
  • Civil Local Rule 5-1 requirement for providing a courtesy copy is suspended until further notice (Please note, the language is further notice and does not apply to the May 1, 2020 date).

Conclusion

If you have a matter in any of the Bay Area courts, we advise you to read the Court’s order carefully, as they all differ in coverage and “holiday” dates. This blog will be updated should any of the Court’s orders change with regard to coverage or “holiday” dates. In the meantime, the attorneys of Dhillon Law Group wish you, your colleagues, and your family good health and best wishes during these uncertain times.

Summary of Bay Area Courthouse “Holiday dates”

 

“Holiday” Dates

San Francisco Superior Court

March 18, 2020 – April 15, 2020

Alameda Superior Court

March 17, 2020 – April 3, 2020

Santa Clara Superior Court

March 17, 2020 – March 27, 2020

Contra Costa Superior Court

March 16, 2020 – April 1, 2020

San Mateo Superior Court

March 16, 2020 – March 31, 2020