The following is an update on the ever-evolving, inconsistent and therefore inherently confusing array of California, Delaware and Nevada court orders as related to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on civil (non-criminal) matters.  As these orders are likely to continue to change, the reader is urged to visit each court’s website (at the URLs provided below) for future updates.

All California State Courts (https://www.courts.ca.gov/supremecourt.htm)

Per California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s March 23, 2020 order:

  • Beginning March 23, 2020, all jury trials have now been suspended for at least 60 days. The order further provides, “Courts may [nonetheless] conduct such a trial at an earlier date, upon a finding of good cause shown or through the use of remote technology, when appropriate.”
  • All Superior Courts have now been authorized “to adopt any proposed rules or rule amendment … intended to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to take effect immediately, without advance circulation for 45 days of public comment.” Any Court adopting such rule changes must, among other things, post notice of the change prominently on the Court's website, along with the effective date of the new or amended rule. Additionally, the court must immediately distribute the new or amended rule as set forth in Rule 10.613(g)(2) of the California Rules of Court.
  • Finally, the Chief Justice directs, “No litigant's substantive rights shall be prejudiced for failing to comply with the requirements of a new or amended rule until at least 20 days after the rule change has been distributed.”

The California Supreme Court has further:

Orange County Superior Court (https://www.occourts.org)

Per Presiding Judge Kirk H. Nakaumra’s March 23, 2020 order, retroactive to March 17, 2020 the Court has now been closed for normal business until March 27, 2020.  Nonetheless, the Court will continue to hear time sensitive matters, or matters pertaining to community “safety and security.”

Per the Presiding Judge’s March 24, 2020 order, all civil trials, hearings and proceedings, including those involving family law and probate, have now further been suspended for at least 60 days, again with the exception of “time-sensitive matters, such as restraining orders and urgent dependency, probate, and family matters.”  The statutory deadlines under Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.320 for the holding of civil trials likewise have been extended 60 days from March 24, 2020.

For time-sensitive matters, counsel and the parties have been ordered “[w]hen possible” to make telephonic appearances in accordance with Code of Civil Procedure section 367.5(a) and California Rule of Court, rule 3.670.

Judge Maria Hernandez has been appointed the Orange County Superior Court’s Covid-19 Judge responsible for disseminating information about the impact of the virus on Orange County’s judicial operations.

Los Angeles Superior Court (https://www.lacourt.org)

Per Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile’s March 17, 2020 General Order, from March 20, 2020 through April 16, 2020, inclusive, all Los Angeles courtrooms have now been closed for judicial business, except (as pertains to civil matters) to the following time-sensitive, essential functions:

  • civil temporary restraining orders;
  • family temporary restraining orders;
  • civil ex parte proceedings;
  • family ex parte proceedings; 
  • contempt proceedings in family law where custody is at issue;
  • Hague Convention (international kidnapping);
  • probate ex parte hearings;
  • probate emergency petitions for temporary conservatorship;
  • emergency orders relating to the health and safety of a child;
  • juvenile restraining orders;
  • petitions for writ seeking emergency relief in misdemeanor, limited civil and infractions emergency writs challenging Covid-19 emergency measures; and
  • writs of habeas corpus challenging medical quarantines.

The order extends a multitude of deadlines that would otherwise occur from March 17, 2020 to April 16, 2020, including (as pertains to civil matters):

  • The deadline under Code of Civil Procedure sections 583.310 and 583.320 to bring an action to trial by an additional 30 days; and
  • The duration of any temporary restraining order that would otherwise expire because the emergency condition prevented the court from conducting proceedings to determine whether the permanent order should be entered is extended by 21 days.

Further, the order declares March 17, 2020 through April 16, 2020, inclusive, to be Court holidays for the purposes of computing the time under Code of Civil Procedure section 1167 (the five-day period within which defendant must respond to a complaint in unlawful detainer action) and Code of Civil Procedure section 116.330(a) (requiring small claims matters to be scheduled for hearing no earlier than 20 days but not more than 70 days from the date of the order directing the parties to appear at the hearing).

Finally, the order commands Los Angeles courthouses providing time-sensitive, essential services to be open beginning March 20, 2020 at 8:30 a.m.

Per the Court’s March 19, 2020 order, the list of time-sensitive, essential functions has been amended to now exclude “Contempt Proceedings in Family Law Where Custody is at Issue,” add “Emergency Protective Orders”, and provide that “[t]he duration of any emergency protective order that would otherwise expire because the emergency condition requiring all courthouses be closed to the public prevented the party from obtaining a temporary restraining order in a timely manner is extended to March 20, 2020.”

Per Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile’s March 23, 2020 order, “effective immediately”:

  • Access to any and all Los Angeles County courthouses has been restricted to Judges, Commissioners, Court staff and authorized persons until further notice.
  • Access to any and all Court proceedings, including but not limited to arraignments, preliminary hearings, motions, ex partes or trials, likewise has now been limited to parties, attorneys, witnesses and authorized persons until further notice.
  • The full and complete public closure of the Beverly Hills, Catalina and Spring Street courthouses has been ordered until further notice.
  • The Executive Officer/Clerk of Court has been authorized to provide telephonic and electronic assistance to assist in those essential services as outlined in the Presiding Judge’s March 17, 2020 and March 19, 2020 Administrative Orders.
  • The suspension of any and all criminal or civil jury or non-jury trials per the March 19, 2020 Administrative Order of the Presiding Judge re: Covid-19 pandemic, including unlawful detainer trials, has been ordered to continue until further notice.
  • Social distancing of at least six (6) feet is now to be enforced in all courthouses and courtrooms “to the extent possible.”

Riverside Superior Court (https://www.riverside.courts.ca.gov)

Per the Court’s March 19, 2020 press release, beginning March 20 and continuing until April 3, 2020, the following eight Riverside courthouses have now completely closed: the Banning Justice Center, the Corona Court, the Hemet Court, the Historic Courthouse, the Moreno Valley Court, the Palm Springs Court, the Riverside Family Law, the Temecula Court and the Blythe Court. The following facilities likewise have closed: the Court’s Records Center, the Riverside Centre (ECD) and the Self-Help Center. The following four courts will continue to remain open to hear “limited emergency [civil] matters only” Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.: the Hall of Justice, the Larson Justice Center, the Riverside Juvenile and the Southwest Justice Center.  The Blythe Court will hear limited emergency civil matters only on Tuesday, Thursday & Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. 

By way of limited emergency matters, the foregoing five courts “will continue to accept ex parte civil harassments, other types of temporary civil restraining orders, and ex-parte applications.”  In probate, this includes “temporary guardianship and temporary conservatorship cases, LPS (mental health) conservatorships … ex parte elder abuse restraining orders and ex-parte applications.”  In family law, this includes “ex parte domestic violence restraining order requests and [other] ex-parte applications.”

Otherwise, all civil trials (unlimited and limited) have been suspended until at least May 25, 2020.  Civil trials in-progress will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  All other civil matters are continued; all “ADR and Mediation Services” have been suspended.

San Bernardino Superior Court (https://www.sb-court.org)

Per Presiding Judge Michael A. Sachs’ March 18, 2020 order, effective March 17 through April 2, 2020, “[a]ll Civil … Jury Trials”, along with all other “Civil and Probate Matters except for same day emergency harassment orders, elder or adult dependent abuse orders, emergency guardianship/conservatorship petitions, and LPS matters” have now been taken off calendar to be rescheduled at a future time.

All parties and their counsel have been directed not to appear unless they have “an emergency matter scheduled for hearing.”  The public has also been advised the Court “Clerk’s Office will provide notice to attorneys and parties regarding the continuance of each matter when the Court reopens.”

Finally, the order instructs “[f]or the purposes of computing time for court related deadlines, the closure will be considered a court holiday. Drop box filings will not be filed or processed until the Court reopens.”

Santa Barbara Superior Court (https://www.sbcourts.org)

Per Presiding Judge Michael J. Carrozzo’s March 23, 2020 order, the Court “has closed most courtrooms in Santa Barbara County, except [as pertains to civil matters] … [t]he court will make one courtroom available in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara as needed for emergency civil ex parte temporary restraining orders and other emergency civil orders.” As for such emergency matters, Judge Maxwell has been assigned to handle emergency civil ex parte orders in Santa Barbara; Judge Beebe has been assigned to handle such emergency ex parte orders in Santa Maria until March 23, 2020, at which time Judge Staffel will assume that duty.

To obtain civil/family/probate emergency ex parte orders, parties and their counsel have been “directed to contact the designated department’s secretary, who will coordinate with the designated judicial officer.”  Thereafter, “[i]f a matter is determined to be a true emergency, the designated judicial officer will determine if the matter can be decided on the documents submitted or if it requires the parties to be present in the courtroom. If appearances are required, a courtroom will be opened for that matter only.”

Otherwise, “[a]ll Civil, Family and Probate matters currently set on the Court’s calendar from March 17, 2020 through and including April 3, 2020 will be rescheduled and notice of a new date will be sent to the parties.” This includes all child support hearings.

Finally, “[a]ny letters of temporary guardianship or temporary conservatorship with an expiration date of March 17, 2020 through and including March 27, 2020” are now amended to read “[t]hese letters shall expire on May 15, 2020 or upon earlier issuance of Letters to a general guardian or conservator.”

San Diego Superior Court (www.sdcourt.ca.gov)

Per Presiding Judge Lorna A. Alksne’s March 19, 2020 order, the Court has “suspended all non-emergency services effective March 17, 2020-April 3, 2020. All court days from March 17, 2020, to April 3, 2020, inclusive, [are now] deemed a court holiday for purposes of computing the time for filing papers with the court pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 12 and 12a.”  The order lists the following as “Services Available During This Period”:

  • Chamber ex parte requests for civil harassment TROs, DVTROs, and Gun Violence Protective Orders;
  • “Emergency ex parte lockout proceedings (UD)”;
  • One family law judge at each branch will review ex parte requests for emergency TROs.
  • One juvenile judge will be available for dependency detention hearings and for emergency orders;
  • One probate judge will be available to cover emergency conservatorships and other emergency orders in Probate. “Please email PRB@SDCOURT.CA.GOV”;
  • Petitions for writ seeking emergency relief in unlawful detainer matters;
  • Emergency writs challenging COVID-19 emergency measures; and
  • Writs of habeas corpus challenging medical quarantines.

Otherwise, as pertains to civil, family and probate matters, the order directs:

Civil

  • All civil proceedings will be rescheduled except for those matters described above;
  • All unlawful detainer matters will be rescheduled except for those matters described above;
  • E-filing and in-person filings are suspended;
  • All temporary restraining orders that would otherwise expire from March 17, 2020 to April 6, 2020, inclusive, have now automatically been extended 30 days, and a new restraining order hearing date will be set. For all such cases, the Court will be issuing orders continuing existing orders and assigning a new hearing date.

Family

  • All family court departments are closed except for those matters described above;
  • All family and family support matters will be rescheduled;
  • All family court counseling and mediation matters will be rescheduled;
  • The family law Facilitator’s Office will be closed to the public;
  • All clinics and workshops have been cancelled;
  • All temporary restraining orders that would otherwise expire from March 17, 2020 to April 6, 2020, inclusive, have now automatically been extended 30 days, and a new restraining order hearing date will be set. For all such cases, the Court will be issuing orders continuing existing orders and assigning a new hearing date.
  • Probate
  • All probate hearings will be rescheduled to a new date by the Clerk’s Office except for those matters described above. Parties will be informed of the new date by U.S. mail; and
  • All in-person visits by Court investigators and Court-approved attorneys for conservatorship cases will be suspended.

Per an amended March 24, 2020 order, the Court added the following items to its list of time-sensitive, essential civil functions that will go forward during the Court’s closure from March 17, 2020 through April 3, 2020:

  • Emergency surrogacy order requests; and
  • Chamber ex parte requests for elder abuse, workplace violence and school violence restraining orders.

Finally, per a further amended March 24, 2020 order, the Court has now directed all San Diego court facilities to “completely close for all services during Cesar Chavez Day, March 31, 2020, and … reopen to continue providing only emergency services on April 1, 2020.”

California Court of Appeal, Second District (https://www.courts.ca.gov/2dca.htm)

Per a March 16, 2020 order from the Honorable Elwood Lui, the Court’s Administrative Presding Judge, all “[i]n-person oral argument sessions … (excluding Division Six) [have been] suspended.  Counsel [are ordered to] appear remotely via video conference, by telephone conference, or by other electronic means a available and arranged by the Clerk’s Office. [¶] All oral argument sessions will be held in the Court of Appeal’s courtroom, 300 South Spring Stree, Los Angeles, California.  The sessions will be open to the public, but seating will be strictly limited in order to achieve appropriate distancing. Division Six will issue its own order on this subject.”

Given expected high volumes of calls, parties and counsel have been encouraged to direct questions to the Clerk’s Office via the “Email Us” link on the Court’s webpage (URL above.)

Per a March 23, 2020 order from Presiding Judge Lui, with respect to “proceedings in which the deadline for any action in the California Rules of Court occurs between March 20, 2020, through and including April 19, 2020 … [t]he time to do any act required or permitted under the California Rules of Court [has now been] extended by 30 additional days.  No application [for the extension] shall be required.”

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District (https://www.courts.ca.gov/4dca.htm)

Per a March 16, 2020 notice on the Court’s website, “parties or counsel [with] concerns about health issues, but … still able to argue [a pending] case” were directed to “notify the court at 714-571-2600 to arrange for oral argument via teleconference.”

Per an ensuing March 20, 2020 notice, the public was advised that the Clerk’s Office for Divisions One and Three remain open, but staff will no longer “be fielding in-person questions.”  For all paper filings including emergency writs, parties and their counsel have now been directed to “use the drop-box located in the lobby” and direct questions regarding their cases to  4DCA1ContactUs@jud.ca.gov (for District One cases) and 4DCA3ContactUs@jud.ca.gov (for District Three cases.)

Per a later March 20, 2020 Court directive, all in-person oral argument sessions in Division One have now been suspended. Counsel who choose to present oral argument must now do so telephonically.

Finally, “the deadline for any action in the California Rules of Court [that] would occur between March 19, 2020, and April 18, 2020” has now been extended by 30 days.

United States District Court for the Central District of California (https://www.cacd.uscourts.gov)

Originally, according to Chief United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips’ March 13, 2020 General Order No. 20-02 (effective March 17, 2020), the United States Courthouses in Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Riverside were to remain open, subject only to the following limitations:

  • Effective immediately, the Court will not call in jurors for service in civil or criminal jury trials until April 13, 2020 or otherwise ordered by the Court. The Court may issue other orders concerning future continuances as necessary and appropriate.
  • All courtroom proceedings and filing deadlines will remain in place unless otherwise ordered by the presiding Judge.
  • The time period of any continuance granted by a District Judge of this Court and entered as a result of this order shall be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A), as the Court finds that the ends of justice served by taking that action outweigh the interests of the parties and the public in a speedy trial. Absent further order of the Court or any individual judge, the period of exclusion shall be from March 13, 2020, to April 13, 2020. The Court may extend the period of exclusion as circumstances may warrant.
  • Individual judges may continue to hold hearings, conferences, and bench trials in the exercise of their discretion, consistent with this Order.

Per General Order No. 20-03 (that went into effect on March 17, 2020), “[e]ffective immediately, the following persons shall not enter any courthouse or Probation and Pretrial Services Office in the Central District of California:

  1. Persons who have travelled to any countries within the last fourteen days for which the Centers for Disease Control has issued Level Two or Level Three travel health notices, including, as of the date of this Order:
    1. China
    2. Italy
    3. Iran
    4. Japan
    5. South Korea

(The order warns “[t]his list may be updated as further guidance is received.)

  1. Persons who reside or have had close contact with someone who has travelled to one of those countries within the last fourteen days;
  2. Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency;
  3. Persons who have been diagnosed with, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus; and
  4. Persons with apparent symptoms of COVID-19, such as, fever, severe cough, or shortness of breath.

General Order No. 20-03 also canceled naturalization ceremonies previously scheduled for March 19, 2020, and all “visits by minors or student groups to, and all tours of, the Courthouses of the Central District of California unrelated to a Court proceedings.”

Now, per a March 21, 2020 directive from Kiry K. Gray, District Court Executive/Clerk of Court published on the Court’s website:

  • All of the Courthouses of the Central District of California have now been closed to the public except for hearings on certain criminal matters.
  • All federal Pro Se Clinics in the district have been closed.
  • In civil cases, no hearings will now go forward “except for emergency time-sensitive matters, such as requests for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions, as ordered by the assigned judicial officer.” 
  • Any hearings on emergency civil matters will proceed telephonically only.

With regard to filings,

  • For all other intake and records questions, parties and their counsel are directed to call the following telephone numbers:

Los Angeles Civil Intake – (213) 894-3535
Los Angeles Criminal Intake – (213) 894-8288
Riverside Civil and Criminal Intake – (951) 328-4450
Santa Ana Civil Intake – (714) 338-2886
Santa Ana Criminal Intake – (714) 338-4786

  • Archival records requests are suspended because the Federal Records Center is closed.
  • The court’s CM/ECF system will remain available 24/7 for electronic filing of documents.
  • Unrepresented litigants who cannot electronically file their documents and attorneys who are required to manually file documents pursuant to the local rules must mail their filings to the Clerk of Court at 255 E. Temple Street, Suite TS-134, Los Angeles, CA 90012-3332.
  • Non-paper physical exhibits or other exhibits exempted from electronically filing shall be sent via U.S. Mail or other commercial delivery to the Clerk of Court at the above address.
  • Until further notice during the pandemic all district judges and magistrate judges no longer require mandatory chambers copies.    

United States District Court for the Southern District of California (https://www.casd.uscourts.gov/)

Per Chief United States District Judge Larryalan Burns’ March 17, 2020 Order No. 18, “[a]ll jury trials in civil and criminal cases in the Southern District of California [have now been] continued until April 16, 2020. New trial or status dates will be set in individual cases on or before April 16, 2020, unless this emergency suspension of trials is extended.”

Except for convening jury trials, individual district judges retain discretion, on a case by case basis, to schedule criminal and civil proceedings, hold hearings, conferences, and bench trials, and otherwise take such actions as may be lawful and appropriate to ensure the fairness of the proceedings and preserve the rights of the parties. Judges may conduct court proceedings by telephone or video conferencing where practicable and consistent with the law.

The requirement under Civil Local Rule 16.1.a. that Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) Conferences be conducted in person is suspended until April 16, 2020. During this period, ENE Conferences may be conducted by telephone or video conferencing.

Per the Court’s March 23, 2020 Order No. 18-A,

  • In civil cases, the personal appearance of counsel, parties, witnesses, or other non-court personnel at proceedings, hearings, or conferences is excused, unless they are ordered to appear in person by a judicial officer after the date this Order is signed.
  • With the exception of jury trials, judges will retain discretion to schedule and hold proceedings, hearings, and conferences telephonically or by video conferencing, as permitted by law.

With regard to filings,

  • In civil cases, documents are not to be filed in person at the courthouse as permitted by Civil L.R. 77 .1.
  • Counsel and parties have been order not to come to the courthouse or send others to file or submit documents that can be mailed or filed electronically.
  • In the case of filings that cannot be accomplished except in person, counsel or parties are ordered deposit documents to be filed in the Clerk's office's after-hours drop-off box.
  • Unless payment is made online or the party is moving to proceed in forma pauperis, a check or money order to cover any applicable filing fees should accompany the documents.
  • The Clerk retains discretion to move the location of the drop-off box. This prohibition renders the Clerk's office inaccessible for purposes of Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(3).
  • Individual judicial officers may order the submission of documents by other means, where appropriate and permitted.
  • As in the Central District, the requirement to provide courtesy copies of filings longer than 20 pages to the Clerk's office or the judge's chambers has been suspended as to civil cases until April 16, 2020 unless extended by the Court.

Delaware Supreme Court (https://courts.delaware.gov/supreme/)

Per Delaware Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz, Jr.’s March 22, 2020 order, all Delaware court facilities were “closed to the public as of Monday, March 23, 2020 until at least April 15, 2020 as part of the Delaware Judiciary’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

During the closure, each Delaware court has been ordered to “have sufficient judicial officers and staff to hear emergency and essential matters in person or remotely through video or teleconferencing ….”  Each courthouse has further been ordered to “provide a method, such as a dropbox or mailing address, for attorneys and the public to fill out and file paper documents if electronic filing is not available to them. For such cases, the courts shall provide, when practical, an email address for attorneys and the public to email paper documents which will be considered filed with the court when received..

Non-emergency and non-essential telephonic arguments, telephonic hearings or videoconferences shall proceed at the discretion of each of the State courts.

For all court proceedings conducted through April 15, 2020, when practical, the courts shall post on their websites the date and time of the hearing or proceeding, and when requested and permitted, provide reasonable access to media organizations.

As to deadlines,

  • Deadlines in court rules or state or local statutes and ordinances applicable to the judiciary that expire between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are extended through April 21, 2020. Statutes of limitations and statutes of 3 repose that would otherwise expire during the period between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are hereby extended through April 21, 2020.
  • Deadlines, statutes of limitations, and statutes of repose that are not set to expire between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are not extended or tolled by the order.
  • Deadlines imposed by court order continue to remain in place but may be extended, consistent with court practices, for good cause shown, including a COVID-19 related cause.

As to family court proceedings,

  • The Family Court shall have the authority, in its discretion to extend emergency ex parte protection from abuse orders beyond 30 days, but not to exceed 45 days. Temporary injunctions and interim guardianships that would expire between March 23, 2020 and April 15, 2020 are extended until April 21, 2020.

As to sworn declarations,

  • Requirements for sworn declarations, verifications, certificates, statements, oaths, or affidavits in filings with the Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court, the Family Court, the Court of Common Pleas, or the Justice of the Peace Court are suspended while the judicial emergency remains in effect.

Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court (http://www.clarkcountycourts.us/)

Per Administrative Order 20-1, effective March 16, 2020, all currently scheduled non-essential hearings are ordered to be conducted by video or telephonic means; decided on the papers; or rescheduled unless otherwise directed by a District Court Judge. 

Essential case types and hearings will continue to be heard through in-person appearance, although appearance by other means is encouraged when possible.  The Order identifies 11 essential case types including in-custody criminal sentencing, criminal arraignments, civil TRO and PI hearings, civil commitments, guardianship matters, domestic protection orders, certain other protective hearings and orders, etc. 

All jury trials (civil and criminal) are suspended for the next 30 days and will be rescheduled as the court calendar allows.  Ongoing jury trials will finish.  The order additionally extends certain deadlines related to the rights/obligations for a speedy trial.