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:


1.  All Youth Detained in Juvenile Halls and Camps in Los Angeles County v. Superior Court

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.

[May 14 update:  See “Judge Rules Against Release Of Low-Risk Juvenile Facility Detainees As COVID-19 Cases Rise.”]

2.  National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers v. Newsom

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.”

3.  California Attorneys for Criminal Justice v. Newsom

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.”]

[July 16 update:  Supreme Court again postpones bar exam, lowers passing score, and directs temporary provisional licensing for 2020 grads.]

[September 24 update:  court denies an original writ petition seeking both a waiver of the bar exam and diploma privilege admission.  (See here.)]

[October 2 updateSupreme Court nixes open-book bar exam, attempts to allay concerns about proctoring software]

[October 22 updateSupreme Court approves provisional license program]

[November 19 updateSupreme Court orders mostly remote February bar exam]

[January 28, 2021 update: “California Supreme Court Expands Law License Pathway for Prior Examinees”]

[February 26, 2021 update:  Supreme Court orders another (mostly) remote bar exam]

5.  Benitez v. Newsom

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.

6.  Ayala v. Superior Court

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.)]

7.  Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, Inc. v. California Department of Justice

[Update:  May 23 post — Another pandemic-docket denial, this one concerning in-person sex offender registrations.]

8.  Council for Education and Research on Toxics v. Superior Court

[June 2 update:  “State Supreme Court orders LA presiding judge to say why civil cases can’t proceed telephonically.”]

[June 17 update:  the Supreme Court denied review on June 17.]

9.  Legislature of the State of California v. Padilla

[June 16 updateLegislature asks Supreme Court to delay redistricting.]

[June 22 updateSupreme Court appears ready to quickly order redistricting delay.]

[July 13 post:  Redistricting delay opinion filing Friday.]

[July 17 updateSupreme Court orders redistricting delay.]

10.  Cullors v. Superior Court

[June 22 update:  Supreme Court orders discovery hearing in lawsuit to protect jail prisoners from COVID-19.]

[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.]

11.  Marshall v. Superior Court

[July 6 updateSupreme Court asked to protect Sacramento jail inmates from COVID-19.]

[July 15 post:  Over a dissent, Supreme Court kicks another pandemic/prisoner case to a lower court.]

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.)]

13.  Fryer-Knowles, Inc. v. Superior Court

[July 12 update:  Supreme Court will not review masks-for-jurors case.]

14.  Golosov v. Superior Court

[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 postRenewed 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.”]

[August 26 postPrecedential effect restored to part of landmark Court of Appeal bail opinion pending review.]

16.  Orange County Board of Education v. Newsom and Immanuel Schools v. Newsom

[September 9 updateSupreme Court won’t order increased in-person schooling.]

17.  Stanley v. Superior Court

[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.)]

18.  Bullock v. Superior Court

[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.)]

19.  Whitfield v. Appellate Division

[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.)]

20.  Franklin v. Superior Court

[October 31 updateSupreme Court shows interest in addressing propriety of pandemic-related trial delays for preference litigants.]

21.  Wells Fargo Bank, National Association v. Superior Court

[November 7 updateAnother non-conference-day PFR ruling shows Supreme Court interest in pandemic trial practices.]

[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.]

22.  Board of Trustees of the California State University v. Superior Court

[November 28 updateSupreme Court lets in-person civil jury trial proceed.]

23.  In re Von Staich

[December 23 updateSupreme Court orders further proceedings in pandemic-related prisoner release/transfer case.]


24.  County of San Bernardino v. Newsom

[January 13, 2021 update:  Supreme Court denies county’s challenge to Governor’s pandemic stay-at-home orders.]

25.  Alliance for Children’s Rights v. Los Angeles Unified School District

[January 20 updateSupreme Court rejects attempt to force in-person schooling in Los Angeles.]

26.  County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health v. Superior Court

[June 9 updateSupreme Court lets stand ruling upholding restaurant dining ban.]

27.  Mikhail v. County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health

[July 23 updateSupreme Court won’t hear challenge to mask mandate.]

28.  Newsom v. Superior Court (Gallagher)

[July 8 postFormer Governor’s aide (who is also a former Court of Appeal justice) wants Supreme Court to rein in Governor’s powers.]

[August 11 updateSupreme Court won’t hear challenge to Governor’s emergency powers.]

29.  Orange County Board of Education v. Newsom

[August 11 updateSchool 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.]

30.  Voice of San Diego v. Superior Court

[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.]


31.  The Inns by the Sea v. California Mutual Insurance Company

[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.)]

32.  See’s Candies, Inc. v. Superior Court

[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.)]

[July 7, 2023 update:  the decision was cited by the Supreme Court with approval in Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks.  (See directly below and here.)]

33.  Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks

[April 21 update:  Ninth Circuit is asking again — sends Covid take-home case to the Supreme Court.]

[June 22 updateSupreme Court will answer Ninth Circuit’s take-home Covid questions.]

[April 20, 2023 update:  The case will be argued on the early-May 2023 calendar.]

[July 7, 2023 update:  No cause of action against employers for take-home COVID.]

34.  People v. Lopez and People v. Alvarez

[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.)]

[June 17 update:  another denial of review in a masked witnesses case is People v. Edwards.  (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.)]

36.  Hernandez-Valenzuela v. Superior Court

[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.)]

37.  People v. Breceda

[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.)]

38.  People v. Harrison

[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.  (See here.)]

39. People v. Churchill

[July 14 update: the Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeal opinion that found to be “extremely disconcerting,” but harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the erroneous holding of a remote probation revocation hearing without the defendant’s consent. The remote hearing violated Judicial Council emergency pandemic rules. (See here.)]

40. Musso & Frank Grill Co. v. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance USA

[August 11 update: the Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeal opinion that found no coverage under a business interruption policy for a restaurant’s government-ordered closure because of the Covid pandemic. (See here.)]

41. Elias v. Superior Court

[August 11 update: the Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeal opinion that rejected a claim the defendant’s speedy trial rights were violated by multiple trial continuances because of the Covid pandemic. (See here.)]

42. 640 Tenth, LP v. Newsom

[August 25 update: the Supreme Court denied review and a request for depublication of a Court of Appeal opinion rejecting arguments by restaurant and gym owners that Governor Newsom’s emergency orders restricting business operations violated the Administrative Procedure Act and were also unconstitutional takings without compensation. (See here.)]

43. Committee for Sound Water and Land Development v. City of Seaside

[September 15 update: review denied in case finding CEQA causes of action time barred, construing Judicial Council emergency rule tolling civil statutes of limitations and amendment of the rule that shortened the tolling for some limitation periods. (See here.)]

44. People v. Whitmore

[September 15 update: review denied in case holding Covid-related requirement that criminal defendant appear remotely at a hearing was not prejudicial error. ( See here.)]

45. People v. Calvary Chapel San Jose

[December 1 update: the court denied review, but depublished the Court of Appeal’s opinion reversing contempt orders imposed for a church’s violation of temporary restraining orders that had required the church to comply with public health orders issued to combat the Covid pandemic. (See here.)]

[March 14, 2023 update: Throwing shade at SCOTUS?]

46. Apple Annie, LLC v. Oregon Mutual Ins. Co.

[December 15 update: the court denied review of a Court of Appeal decision upholding judgment on the pleadings for an insurance company in an action seeking coverage under a comprehensive commercial liability policy for restaurants’ losses due to government-ordered Covid restrictions. (See here.)]

47. Another Planet Entertainment, LLC v. Vigilant Insurance Company

[December 28 update: the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court to decide whether a commercial property insurance policy can provide coverage for business income losses that an insured incurred following government closure orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. (See here.)]

[March 1, 2023, update: Supreme Court will answer big-ticket COVID insurance question for the Ninth Circuit.]

[February 16, 2024 update: the case will be argued on the March calendar. (See here.)]

[May 23 update: COVID insurance coverage limited.]


48. Amy’s Kitchen, Inc. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.

[February 2, 2023 update: depublication denied of opinion holding superior court correctly sustained an insurance carrier’s demurrer, but for the wrong reason, and also held the insured was entitled to amend its complaint to show its claim came within its policy’s “communicable disease event” coverage. (See here.)]

49. French Laundry Partners, LLP v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

[February 6 update: Ninth Circuit sends second COVID insurance case to the California Supreme Court.]

[March 29 update: Supreme Court takes two more COVID insurance cases; one, from the Ninth Circuit, is a grant-and-hold.]

50. Godspeak Calvary Chapel v. County of Ventura

[February 21 update: the Supreme Court last week denied review of and a request to publish the opinion of the Second District, Division Six. Division Six held to be moot an appeal challenging a county’s request for an injunction against indoor worship services that violated government COVID health orders. It also decided that a church’s damages claims for violations of its constitutional rights were barred by the county’s immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. According to a news report, the church’s pastor “contends COVID-19 vaccines kill, critical race theory is ‘diabolical’ and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is being used as a weapon against Republicans,” and also wants God to make Christian nationalist Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene president.]

51. Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School District

[February 24 update: the Supreme Court this week denied a request to depublish a Court of Appeal opinion invalidating a school district’s COVID vaccine mandate. (See here.)]

52. John’s Grill, Inc. v. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

[March 29 update: Supreme Court takes two more COVID insurance cases; one, from the Ninth Circuit, is a grant-and-hold.]

53. Shusha v. Century-National Insurance Company

[April 20 update: This COVID insurance case is a grant-and-hold for Another Planet Entertainment (number 47 above). (See here.)]

54. San Jose Sharks v. Superior Court

[April 20 update: The Supreme Court denied a petition to transfer a COVID insurance writ proceeding pending in the Court of Appeal. (See here.)]

[April 16, 2024 update: The court last week denied review of the Court of Appeal decision that the National Hockey League and many of its teams could not claim coverage under commercial insurance policies for losses incurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (See here.)]

55. SVAP III Poway Crossings, LLC v. Fitness International, LLC.

[April 27 update: The Supreme Court declined to hear a case where the Court of Appeal held that a fitness facility was not excused from paying rent when government orders shut it down for several months because of the COVID pandemic. (See here.)]

56. People v. Macovichuk

[April 27 update: Review denied of opinion holding a defendant’s speedy-trial right was not violated by an 11-month delay that “was due to the disruption to the trial court’s operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” (See here.)]

57. Vie De France Yamazaki, Inc. v. Superior Court

[May 4 update: The case is a grant-and-hold for Kuciemba, number 33 above. (See here.)]

[November 2 update: The Supreme Court dismissed review after the petitioner withdrew its petition for review. (See here.)]

58. People v. Muhammad

[May 4 update: The Supreme Court denied review of a Court of Appeal opinion rejecting the argument that jury deliberations during the pandemic were unconstitutionally coercive. (See here.)]

59. Birke v. Lowe’s Home Centers

[June 1 update: Review denied of Court of Appeal decision affirming dismissal of case against a store for not aiding a customer assaulted by another customer who was violating a public health order by not wearing a mask. (See here.)]

60. Estrada v. Superior Court

[June 16 update: The court denied review — with one dissenting vote — but depublished the Court of Appeal opinion that rejected criminal defendants’ claims that the superior court was violating their right to speedy trials by the superior court’s continued reliance on the pandemic to excuse trial delays. (See here.)]

61. Best Rest Motel, Inc. v. Sequoia Insurance Company

[June 16 update: The court denied review, instead of granting-and-holding, of a Court of Appeal opinion finding no possibility of business interruption insurance coverage for a motel’s lost business during the pandemic. (See here.)]

62. In re Matthew M.

[June 16 update: The court denied a request to depublish the Court of Appeal opinion affirming a juvenile court order allowing vaccination against the COVID virus of a 12-year-old over the religious objections of the child’s mother. (See here.)]

63. Coast Restaurant Group, Inc. v. AmGUARD Insurance Company

[June 29 update: The court denied a depublication request for a Court of Appeal opinion finding insurance policy exclusions defeated a coverage claim for business income losses from government COVID pandemic shut-down orders. (See here.)]

64. Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians of the Santa Ynez Reservation California v. Lexington Insurance Company

[July 13 update: A grant-and-hold for Another Planet Entertainment, LLC v. Vigilant Insurance Company, number 47 above. (See here.)]

65. Starlight Cinemas, Inc. v. Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company

[July 28 update: Request denied to depublish Court of Appeal opinion holding the plaintiff had not stated a claim for insurance coverage “for losses sustained when it was compelled by government orders to suspend operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.” (See here.)]

66. Showa Hospitality, LLC v. Sentinel Insurance Co.

[August 10 update: A grant-and-hold for John’s Grill, Inc. v. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., number 52 above. (See here.)]

67. Raju v. Superior Court

[September 15 update: The court agreed to decide whether taxpayers have standing to sue a superior court for improper pandemic-related delays in bringing criminal cases to trial. (See here.)]

68. People v. Navarro

[September 15 update: The court denied a criminal defendant’s petition for review claiming that his right to a speedy trial was violated by a postponement during the pandemic. (See here.)]

69. People v. Superior Court (Tapia)

[September 28 update: The court denied a district attorney’s petition for review of a decision affirming the dismissal of a felony case because of delay that, “although ‘related to COVID,’ was caused mainly by the court’s chronic backlog predating the pandemic.” (See here.)]

70. People v. Govan

[November 15 update: On August 23, the court denied review of a Court of Appeal partially published opinion finding no constitutional or statutory violation in receiving a jury’s verdict in the defendant’s absence, an absence caused by the defendant’s quarantine due to his exposure to the COVID virus.]

71. Navellier v. Putnam

[December 1 update: The court denied review of a decision holding that the pandemic and Judicial Council emergency COVID rules and orders did not extend the statutory three-year period to serve a civil complaint and summons. (See here.)]

72. Endeavor Operating Company v. HDI Global Insurance Company

[December 17 update: The case is a grant-and-hold for Another Planet Entertainment v. Vigilant Insurance Co., number 47 above. (See here.)]

73. Rossi v. Sequoia Union Elementary School

[December 17 update: The court denied review of an opinion upholding the firing of a school employee who violated a vaccination-or-testing order. (See here.)]

74. JRK Property Holdings v. Colony Insurance Company

[December 21 update: The case is a grant-and-hold for Another Planet Entertainment v. Vigilant Insurance Co., number 47 above. (See here.)]

75. People v. Molina

[December 28 update: The court denied review of an opinion rejecting arguments that various pandemic masking and distancing protocols for jurors prevented a fair criminal trial. (See here, and numbers 13 and 34 above.)]


76. Shaw v. Los Angeles Unified School District

[January 25, 2024 update: The court on January 10 denied review of an opinion that revived a lawsuit alleging distance-learning policies discriminated against poor students and students of color in violation of the California Constitution. (See here.)]

77. People v. Hampton

[January 25 update: The court denied review of an opinion finding harmless any error in a COVID-positive juror participating remotely during the last day of deliberations. (See here.)]

78. People v. Marman

[February 5 update: The court last week denied review of an opinion rejecting a claim that the defendant’s speedy-trial right was violated by an 11-month delay during the COVID pandemic. (See here.)]

79. Oswald v. Landmark Builders

[February 16 update: The court denied review of an opinion affirming the dismissal of a civil lawsuit for failing to timely bring the case to trial, rejecting the plaintiffs’ assertion that the statutory time should have been tolled for “approximately 16 months of courtroom closure (March 16, 2020 to July 1, 2021) related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” (See here.)]

80. People v. Osborne

[June 6 update: The court last week denied review of an opinion affirming the dismissal of burglary charges because of the denial of a speedy trial. The Court of Appeal followed its earlier Tapia decision. (Number 69 above.) (See here.)]