Government Code section 68115 and rule 8.66 give Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, as Judicial Council chair, emergency powers, including extending filing deadlines.  Section 68115 seems to apply only to superior courts and to allow emergency actions only on a superior court’s request.  Rule 8.66, which gives more limited powers, apparently applies to all courts and doesn’t condition action on any request.

According to Judicial Council Public Information Officer Cathal Conneely, the “Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Ventura [superior courts] have submitted emergency order requests seeking relief.”  He added, “It’s important to protect the public, court staff, and court users, and also those seeking relief through the court system to protect their liberty and civil rights.”

Conneely says a Judicial Council official statement might be coming soon.

[Update:  The Chief Justice this afternoon issued a statement acknowledging that some courts “are appropriately requesting emergency orders from me to support their local needs.”  She also said, “Many courts are using their authority to modify practices or extend timelines.”  As of now, the decision making is mostly decentralized.  The Chief explained, “The authority to adjust or suspend court operations rests with local court leadership, taking into account local health authority guidelines” and she recommended that court users “check with their local courts or court websites for updates on how a court is responding to the crisis.”]

[March 18 update:  I was wrong about rule 8.66’s scope.  It doe not apply to all courts.  Instead, as noted in a later blog post, the rule gives the Chief Justice authority to extend only those time periods specified in the appellate rules.]