The COVID-19 pandemic has added many matters to the Supreme Court’s docket. And that’s not counting the many other issues that have occupied the attention of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Ming Chin as, respectively, chair and a member of the Judicial Council.
Here is a (probably incomplete) status report on the court’s pandemic docket:
A writ petition filed April 15 sought to “substantially reduce and safeguard youth populations in [Los Angeles County] juvenile halls and camps” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The court asked for quick preliminary briefing. Just a week after the petition’s filing, the court sent the matter to the Los Angeles superior court for expedited hearings.
An April 24 writ petition asked the Supreme Court to order the release of enough detainees in California jails and juvenile facilities “to ensure that all remaining persons are held under conditions consistent with CDC and public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including appropriate social distancing.” After requesting and receiving a quick informal response and reply, the court on May 4 denied the petition, but recommended the claims be refiled in individual superior courts, because “[t]he issues raised . . . call for prompt attention in a manner that considers the diversity of local conditions throughout the state.”
Another April 24 writ petition seeks a moratorium on transferring persons from California prisons and jails to federal immigration detention facilities, because, the petition claims, federal officials are guilty of an “abject failure to protect the lives of people in its custody from the deadly COVID-19.” As requested, the court received a preliminary opposition on April 30 and a reply on May 1.
The petition is still pending. A ruling is taking longer than with the other two petitions concerning incarceration conditions (see above). The (relative) delay might indicate that the court will not send the matter to the trial courts, as it did with the other petitions, or that a justice is writing a separate statement disagreeing with or explaining whatever the court’s disposition will be.
[Update: May 13 post — Divided Supreme Court won’t stop transfers to immigration custody.]
4. The Bar Exam
After receiving input from the State Bar and from California law school deans, the court on April 27 postponed the summer bar exam — originally scheduled for July 28 and 29 — to September 9 and 10, and it instructed the State Bar “to make every effort possible” to administer the test online with remote and/or electronic proctoring.
[June 11 update: Cheryl Miller in The Recorder: “California Supreme Court Raises Prospect of October Bar Exam.”]
[October 22 update: Supreme Court approves provisional license program]
[November 19 update: Supreme Court orders mostly remote February bar exam]
[January 28, 2021 update: “California Supreme Court Expands Law License Pathway for Prior Examinees”]
[February 26 update: Supreme Court orders another (mostly) remote bar exam]
An April 22 writ petition wanted to block $75 million in state disaster relief assistance to undocumented immigrants. The petition claimed that, because the money is going into a public-private fund that will be dispersed through regional nonprofit organizations, California’s contribution violates a bar against “the appropriation of public funds for the benefit of organizations not within the exclusive management and control of the State.” The court asked for and received expedited preliminary briefing and then summarily denied the petition without comment on May 6.
The Fourth District, Division One, Court of Appeal, in a published opinion on April 29, interpreted one of the Judicial Council’s COVID-19 emergency rules. Emergency rule 4 states that it “establishes a statewide Emergency Bail Schedule, which is intended to promulgate uniformity in the handling of certain offenses during the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The petitioners challenged a superior court general order as inconsistent with the emergency rule because the order allows a departure from the bail schedule in individual cases.
The appellate court rejected the argument. Also, although the emergency rules exercise authority under an extraordinarily broad executive order by Governor Gavin Newsom, the court expressly did not consider the validity of emergency rule 4 or the Governor’s order because the parties did not raise the issue.
The Court of Appeal made its decision final five days after filing. A petition for review was filed on May 5. The Supreme Court has taken no action on the petition so far.
[June 17 update: the Supreme Court denied review and depublished the Court of Appeal’s opinion on June 17.]
[June 25 post: review denied in four writ proceedings apparently involving the emergency rule that established a statewide emergency bail schedule. (Here.)]
[Update: May 23 post — Another pandemic-docket denial, this one concerning in-person sex offender registrations.]
[June 17 update: the Supreme Court denied review on June 17.]
[June 16 update: Legislature asks Supreme Court to delay redistricting.]
[June 22 update: Supreme Court appears ready to quickly order redistricting delay.]
[July 13 post: Redistricting delay opinion filing Friday.]
[July 17 update: Supreme Court orders redistricting delay.]
[June 23 update: the Court of Appeal dismissed the writ petition as moot after the superior court said it would comply with the appellate court’s alternative writ.]
[July 6 update: Supreme Court asked to protect Sacramento jail inmates from COVID-19.]
12. [July 9 update: Review denied in writ proceedings challenging the legality and constitutionality of Judicial Council emergency orders dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Here.)]
[July 12 update: Supreme Court will not review masks-for-jurors case.]
[At the end of May, the First District, Division Three, denied a writ petition in an order saying that there was good cause to bring the petitioner to trial after the regular time and, alternatively, that “during a state of emergency the Chair of the Judicial Council is authorized by Government Code section 68115, subdivision (b) to grant multiple extensions of the periods in which defendants must be brought to trial, so long as each extension is limited to the maximum time period of thirty days set forth under subdivision (a)(10).” (Link added.) Chief Justice and Judicial Council Chair Tani Cantil-Sakauye authorized superior courts to extend the statutory time period for holding criminal trials. (Here and here.) The Supreme Court denied review on July 22. The Chief Justice and Judicial Council vice-chair Justice Ming Chin were recused. (See here, here, here, and here.)]
15. In re Humphrey
[August 19 post: Renewed request, partially supported by Attorney General, to have bail opinion binding pending review. The Attorney General said reconsideration is necessary due to “the unexpected change in circumstances caused by the unprecedented impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.”]
[September 9 update: Supreme Court won’t order increased in-person schooling.]
[September 10 update: Review and depublication denied of opinion that rejected a criminal defendant’s claim that emergency extension orders by the Governor and Chief Justice deprived him of his right to a speedy trial. (See here.)]
[September 10 update: Depublication denied of opinion holding that the superior court had failed to establish good cause to not conduct a criminal defendant’s preliminary hearing during a 15-day period when the court was closed for most proceedings because of the pandemic. (See here.)]
[September 24 update: court denies certiorari writ petition challenging the validity of an emergency rule, which the Judicial Council had since ended, that temporarily halted most unlawful detainer actions in the state. (See here.)]
[February 26, 2021 update: On remand, Court of Appeal unpublished opinion finds no abuse of discretion in superior court denial of continuance request that was based on pandemic-related health concerns.]
[November 28 update: Supreme Court lets in-person civil jury trial proceed.]
23. In re Von Staich
[December 23 update: Supreme Court orders further proceedings in pandemic-related prisoner release/transfer case.]
[January 13, 2021 update: Supreme Court denies county’s challenge to Governor’s pandemic stay-at-home orders.]
[January 20 update: Supreme Court rejects attempt to force in-person schooling in Los Angeles.]
[June 9 update: Supreme Court lets stand ruling upholding restaurant dining ban.]
[July 23 update: Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to mask mandate.]
[August 11 update: Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to Governor’s emergency powers.]
[August 11 update: School board asks Supreme Court to end Governor’s pandemic emergency declaration.]
[August 18 update: Supreme Court rejects challenge to continuation of Governor’s emergency declaration.]
[October 30 update: On October 27, the Supreme Court denied review of a Fourth District, Division One, published opinion that rejected journalists’ attempt under the Public Records Act to get unredacted county records showing the exact name and location of disease outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The appellate court found to be predominating the evidence that disclosure would have a chilling effect on the public’s willingness to cooperate with contact tracing efforts.]
[March 11, 2022 update: the Supreme Court denied review in a case that, according to the published opinion of the Fourth District, Division One, “present[ed] an issue of first impression for a California appellate court: does a commercial property insurance policy provide coverage for a business’s lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic?” The appellate court found no coverage under the policy in the case. (See here.)]
[April 14 update: the Supreme Court denied review of an opinion holding that the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act did not bar a wrongful death action by an employee who contracted Covid because of her employer’s alleged failure to take adequate safety precautions and who then passed the disease to her husband, who died. (See here.)]
[April 21 update: Ninth Circuit is asking again — sends Covid take-home case to the Supreme Court.]
[June 22 update: Supreme Court will answer Ninth Circuit’s take-home Covid questions.]
[April 28 update: the Supreme Court denied review in two cases rejecting arguments that requiring witnesses to wear face coverings because of the Covid pandemic violated the criminal defendants’ constitutional confrontation rights. (See here.)]
35. Stone v. Weber
[June 2 update: the Supreme Court summarily denied an original writ petition that challenged a 2020 superior court order granting a pandemic-based second extension of the period to collect petition signatures to qualify an initiative for the November 2022 ballot. (See here.)]
[June 17 update: with one recorded dissenting vote, the Supreme Court denied review of a 2-1 opinion rejecting claims that statutory speedy trial rights were violated, because, the Court of Appeal majority found, “the delay of petitioners’ trials was attributable to exceptional circumstances connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.” (See here.)]
[June 17 update: the Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeal opinion that held the defendant’s due process rights were not violated by a 72-day pause in his murder trial, a hiatus caused by three ill jurors and then statewide and local orders suspending jury trials because of the Covid pandemic. (See here.)]
[June 30 update: the Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeal opinion rejecting claims that the timing and length of a 60-day pandemic-caused interruption in the defendant’s trial deprived him of due process and that the superior court erroneously declined to individually question the jurors before resuming the trial about possible safety concerns.]