Skip to main content

COVID News Center:

Find all statewide emergency actions and orders by county here

News Release

California Chief Justice Issues Guidance to Expedite Court Emergency Orders

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on Monday issued guidance to California trial courts seeking emergency orders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mar 16, 2020

California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye on Monday issued guidance to California trial courts seeking emergency orders to adjust or suspend court operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current California law circumscribes the authority of the Chief Justice during emergencies. Presiding judges of county superior courts may petition the Chief Justice—as chair of the Judicial Council—for an emergency order to support their local needs.

The law allows local courts to request a number of relief measures, including declaring holidays to recalculate filing deadlines, extending temporary restraining orders, holding sessions elsewhere in the county, extending the time for a criminal trial to be held, and others. (Note: All emergency orders signed by the Chief Justice related to COVID-19 can be found here).

The Chief Justice’s guidance serves as a blueprint for requests that would be presumptively approved. Requests beyond those listed in the advisory will also be expedited, she wrote.

“California’s judicial branch is facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 virus,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote. “I recognize that this situation may require the temporary adjustment or suspension of court operations and procedures. I stand prepared to prioritize all such requests that may be submitted in the days ahead.”



See Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s advisory below, sent to all county superior court presiding judges on Monday:

To the Trial Court Presiding Judges (cc: CEOs)

Dear Colleagues:

California’s judicial branch is facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 virus. I recognize that this situation may require the temporary adjustment or suspension of court operations and procedures. As you know, Government Code section 68115 allows the presiding judge of a superior court affected by an emergency to request, and me to authorize, that certain dates or a range of days be declared court holidays, that the time frames for specific procedures be extended, or both. I stand prepared to prioritize all such requests that may be submitted in the days ahead.

I provide the following guidance to facilitate the submission, review, and approval of these requests. Given the declarations of a State of Emergency by President Trump and Governor Newsom, and prevailing conditions and circumstances common to the superior courts of the state, I anticipate that requests for orders under section 68115 that invoke the pandemic situation, and explain that the protection of public health and safety in connection with this situation has resulted or is expected to result in significant interference with superior court services and proceedings, will on that basis state sufficient grounds for, at a minimum, the relief listed below. With requests for a section 68115 order that would affect a criminal defendant’s or a similarly situated juvenile’s rights to a prompt arraignment and speedy adjudication, such as a request to extend the time period for an arraignment under Penal Code section 825 from 48 hours to three or more days, the request should include facts that specifically show the need for the additional time that is requested, and that the delays sought are the least necessary under the circumstances in light of the alternatives before the court, including alternatives reached upon consultation with other local justice partners.

The requests presumptively subject to approval upon the representations described above are:

  • A declaration that for a period of up to 10 court days from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, an emergency condition substantially interfered with the public’s ability to file papers in a court facility or court facilities, and that such days are deemed holidays for the purpose of computing time for filing papers with the court under Sections 12 and 12a of the Code of Civil Procedure, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(4);
  • A declaration that for a period of up to 10 court days from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, an emergency condition prevented the court from conducting proceedings governed by Welfare and Institutions Code section 334, and that such days are deemed holidays for the purpose of computing time under this statute, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(5);
  • An extension, of up to 30 days from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, of the time periods provided in Sections 583.310 and 583.320 of the Code of Civil Procedure to bring an action to trial, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(6);
  • An extension, for up 30 days, of the duration of any restraining order that would otherwise expire within 14 days of the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(7);
  • An extension, for a period of one month from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, of the time period provided in section 859b of the Penal Code for the holding of a preliminary examination from 10 court days to not more than 15 court days, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(9); and
  • An extension, for a period of one month from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, of the time period provided in section 334 of the Welfare and Institutions Code within which a hearing on a juvenile dependency petition must be held by not more than 7 days, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(12).

Any request for the declaration of court holidays or extensions beyond or in addition to those described above also will be reviewed expeditiously to determine whether it states adequate grounds for the relief sought.

In closing, I want to reiterate my gratitude to you all, who stand in the front lines in this situation, as in so many others.

Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye
Chief Justice of California

Images