All over the state, courts are requesting closure or extended timeframes in order to contend with the public health crisis surrounding COVID-19. The Contra Costa Superior Court is closed until April 1, the Los Angeles Superior Court is delaying its trials, and the Orange County Superior Court will not start new civil trials until May. These closures and delays threaten one of our most fundamental American rights: the right to a speedy trial.
In the Supreme Court’s case, they’re taking steps to prevent COVID-19 spread through new remote working technology. The court will continue to have in-person meetings one week every month, but litigators must now argue their cases remotely by video conference or other means of communication. All sessions will now be held in San Francisco, foregoing the rotation that usually takes place between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento.
Additionally, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye issued a statement to provide guidance to local courts who want to “adjust or suspend” all court procedures due to the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All courts are working to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and adjust to the quickly changing situation,” Cantil-Sakauye said. "Each court has different challenges and is working with local stakeholders to craft the best protections.”
How Courts Are Responding to COVID-19
Government Code section 68115 gives authority to the Chief Justice to declare a range of days or weeks be a court holiday, that certain procedural deadlines be extended, or both. In this case, any request for court closures or extended time frames that would affect a defendant’s right to a speedy arraignment or trial would need to include specific reasons and would need to request the absolute minimum time necessary.
If a court is able to sufficiently prove that it has a valid request under section 68115, then preliminary examinations, juvenile hearings, restraining orders, and trial actions may face a 30-day extension. That means instead of getting a hearing within seven days as required by law, a juvenile defendant may not get a hearing for a month or longer. Temporary restraining orders may last twice as long as they’re supposed to, and trials may be delayed for weeks.
Delayed trials and court closures will mean some defendants may stay in jail for longer than they would have otherwise been held. The right to a speedy trial, unfortunately, may be denied in light of public health concerns.
Speak with Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed Today to Protect Your Rights
While the state is dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis, our firm is hard at work ensuring that our clients’ rights are still affirmed and advocated for in court. Though trials and arraignments have slowed, arrests have not—which means people will be in even greater need of experienced advocacy. Let our firm help you deal with bail issues and other problems affected by COVID-19.
Speak with Attorney Nabiel C. Ahmed today for a free consultation. Let’s discuss your options and get you home as soon as possible.