California Permanently Adopts Court Procedures Devised for COVID-19

During the coronavirus pandemic, California joined many other states in adjusting court procedures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Now, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law that will make some of these reforms permanent. The law takes effect immediately.

Depositions now may be taken remotely rather than in person, for example, and the physical presence of attorneys is optional. Also, parties in lawsuits must accept electronic service of notice and other documents if they have an attorney whose electronic service address has been confirmed by phone or email. The law further provides that trial continuances granted during the COVID-19 emergency, and for 180 days afterward, automatically extend pre-trial deadlines in those lawsuits. This is meant to promote uniformity across the state and prevent discovery materials from becoming stale.

Senator Tom Umberg, who wrote the law, plans to introduce further legislation to streamline the court process next year. His next bill would allow the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court to devise uniform standards.

Meanwhile, Governor Newsom also signed into effect a law that allows the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court to issue emergency statewide orders without receiving permission from the Governor or a request from a lower court. Under normal circumstances, the Supreme Court would need to wait until a lower court sought its intervention. This law does not take effect until the start of 2021.
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