News Release

Chief Justice Recognizes Courts for Remaining Open and Adapting to COVID-19

Reviews how courts managed to stay open safely during the pandemic, leveraged technology, and commits to consider lessons learned to enhance access and equity
Mar 12, 2021

VIA WEB CONFERENCE—At the start of the council’s Mar. 12 business meeting, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye reviewed how courts over the past year have addressed challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Chief Justice explained how local court innovation, supported by state funding and branchwide emergency rules and technology planning, has delivered a variety of services and options for court users to access their justice system. These services include remote proceedings, voice-to-text language translation, and online live chat and automated chatbots.

“Unprecedented was the word frequently used to define us in 2020,” said the Chief Justice. “Unprecedented also appropriately describes the response to the pandemic, the desire to innovate and adapt, and the commitment to equity and equal access throughout California. I have been inspired by what courts at every level of our justice system have been able to achieve in their unprecedented efforts to serve the public during this time.”

In her remarks, she also reaffirmed the judicial branch’s commitment to:

  • Build on successes with remote proceedings and the proven benefits to court users, judicial officers, and court staff;
  • Learn from and build on experiences with unlawful detainer and our temporary emergency rules, which includes working with our sister branches of government and their reactions and actions to the pandemic;
  • Revisit jury system reform, examining the challenges of impaneling a jury and having a jury trial with one’s peers; and
  • Consider other practices that local courts have implemented to better serve the public, to be more efficient, and to adapt to ever-changing conditions facing court users during the pandemic.

 Transcript of Chief Justice remarks

Other items on the council meeting agenda include:

Tactical Plan for Technology: The council approved an update to its tactical plan for technology to enhance electronic access to courts and court services. The plan would expand projects already underway, including remote video appearances, language access technology (such as video remote interpreting and voice-to-text translation services), online self-help services, e-filing, and online dispute resolution. Watch

California Juvenile Justice Realignment: The council heard about recent legislation to close state juvenile facilities and require each county and court to manage all juvenile offenders who remain under juvenile court jurisdiction. This presentation highlighted changes to the law and issues for the judicial branch, including an anticipated trailer bill that will direct the council to create an offense classification matrix in conjunction with probation, prosecutors and defense attorneys, behavior health representatives, formerly incarcerated youth, juvenile justice advocates, and other juvenile justice system stakeholders. Watch

Improving Outcomes for Defendants with Mental Health Issues: The council received a report on responses to defendants who have mental illnesses in adult criminal court. The report documents progress made but also outlines areas where work remains, including the increased use of collaborative justice courts, pretrial mental health diversion programs, forensic evaluators for competency hearings, and discharge planning that includes help with housing and mental health treatment upon a defendant’s release. Watch

The complete meeting agenda and council reports are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center.

View the meeting webcast archived here