Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued another emergency order yesterday, the first one since Governor Gavin Newsom and the Judicial Council gave her very broad authority to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order “[a]uthorize[s] superior courts to issue implementation orders” to extend times (1) “for the holding of a preliminary examination and the defendant’s right to release,” (2) “within which a defendant charged with a felony offense must be taken before a magistrate,” (3) “for the holding of a criminal trial,” and (4) “to bring [a civil] action to trial.”

It is unclear why the order authorizes individual superior courts to extend times instead of the order itself extending times statewide.  The Judicial Council seemed to have already taken such statewide actions on Saturday and the Governor’s order authorized statewide action.  Additionally, the Chief Justice’s March 23 order suspending jury trials for 60 days also extended criminal and civil trial times statewide.

There seem to be some inconsistencies in the recent actions.  For example, the Chief Justice’s March 23 order provided, “The time period provided in Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.320 for the holding of a civil trial is extended for a period of sixty (60) days from the date of this order”; on March 28, according to its news release, the Judicial Council “[e]xtend[ed] the time period to bring an action to trial by more than 30 days”; and yesterday’s Chief Justice order authorizes superior courts to “[e]xtend the time periods provided in sections 583.310 and 583.320 of the Code of Civil Procedure to bring an action to trial by no more than 60 days from the last date on which the statutory deadline otherwise would have expired” (emphasis added).

The Chief Justice also states in yesterday’s order, “the 60-day continuance of jury trials, which I authorized in my order of March 23, 2020, is to be calculated from the date for which the trial was set or extended as provided in A.3 or A.4 above [i.e., the extensions for holding criminal and civil trials], whichever is longer.”  The March 23 order suspended and continued jury trials for “sixty (60) days from the date of this order.”  A trial set for May 21 — the 59th day after the order — is apparently now continued for 60 days, to July 20.  But is a trial set for May 23 — the 61st day after the order — not continued at all?

Finally, yesterday’s order also “suspend[s] any rule in the California Rules of Court to the extent such rule would prevent a court from using technology to conduct judicial proceedings and court operations remotely.”

The actions so far have left prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys angry.  Maura Dolan reports for the Los Angeles Times, “Public defenders, who have been trying to get clients out of jail [for health reasons], were furious about the extension of deadlines.  Prosecutors were upset that judicial leaders merely recommended remote hearings rather than ordering them [also for health reasons].”  (See also Meghann Cuniff in the Daily Journal:  “Defense bar ‘outraged’ over Judicial Council Changes.”)

[March 3, 2022 update:  News release by Merrill Balassone with California Courts:  “California Chief Justice Rescinds Temporary Emergency Measures.”  The rescinding order is effective April 30, but does not affect “an emergency order or orders issued to an individual court.”]