Full report: Pandemic Case Trends
New legislation would allow courts to continue to hold civil proceedings remotely, following unprecedented demand from the public to access the courts remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Newsom has until Oct. 10 to sign the bill, which would sunset in 2023.
According to a Judicial Council letter supporting the bill:
- All 58 local superior courts are able to hold proceedings remotely in at least one case type and 39 courts in most or all case types;
- 25 courts that received modernization funding for remote video have held more than half a million remote proceedings in six months, benefiting countless Californians, particularly vulnerable populations.
- Los Angeles County Superior Court alone averages 5,000 remote proceedings daily.
“Forty million Californians deserve to have access to their court system,” said California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye. “Providing access to the courts through remote technology is about equity and fairness—people should not have to miss work or travel long distances for a routine proceeding. Courts can never require someone to appear remotely, but Californians should have this choice.”
Resilience of California Courts During Pandemic
California courts quickly transformed their operations to remain accessible amid public health and safety concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Judicial Council report that reviewed case trends.
Case filings dropped by 39% during the initial surge of the pandemic (March-August 2020) compared to the same period in 2019. Case dispositions, or resolutions, dropped by 49% with the challenges of physical distancing requirements and reduced resources.
As filing volumes began to return to pre-pandemic levels, case dispositions kept pace as courts implemented new remote and online solutions.
Remote Proceedings Help Courts Reduce Case Backlogs
Remote proceedings allowed California trial courts to resolve a far larger percentage of certain case types during the pandemic, the report showed.
California superior courts averaged a case clearance rate of 86% before the pandemic. During the first months of the pandemic (March-August 2020), that average dropped to 73%. A court’s clearance rate is the percentage of all case filings that are resolved.
But in areas where courts were able to process a large part of their court calendar by remote video—most notably juvenile delinquency and dependency cases—clearance rates improved even over pre-pandemic levels. Remote hearings allowed courts to handle not just current juvenile cases but also clear previous backlogs.
California Case Filings Rebound
By late 2020, felony and civil unlimited cases returned to typical volumes. Case filings in probate and trust cases exceeded historical levels.