Friday, May 8, 2020

Bay Area courts re-opening

This week, with the "Stage 2" lessening, finally came the tide of the courts reopening.

[Update May 29] But not the federal bankruptcy courts - - just announced to remain close to public through September (link)

Alameda court is now accepting almost all civil filings, makes hearing reservations, and offers hearings via phone and video remote access: Rule 1.8a and Rule 3.30 (May 7, 2020, version). Appeals and unlawful detainers remain on hold. Alameda court adopted "Blue Jeans" technology for video appearances.
[Update May 20, 2020] - now says the court mostly (yet remotely) re-opens (link).

Contra Costa starts conducting remote hearings on May 18, as its May 5 press-release states.
On May 13, the updated order was issued, it looks like the court reopened on May 26 for physical access to the hearings (essential parties only, no records' department, and wear a mask of course). But there is no mentioning of remote hearings in the order.

Santa Clara court in today's order promised to reopen Law & Motion on May 19 and Appellate division on May 22 (May 8, 2020, order).

Also today, San Mateo published its reopening order, it has several dates there for different purposes, but the general note is that it is reopening during the next 2 weeks for remote hearings. Entered on May 18, an updated order hints at June 12 as the reopening date, with the unlawful detainers pushed further down, at least to June 22 for the earliest trial date.

San Francisco court was silent this week, no new orders since April 30, but the e-filing does go through, as it was going before. Even better, limited UD cases are now also included in the e-filing system. Main operations are still expected to reopen after June 1, with the housing court kicking in after June 22nd.
[May 27 update] - the court opens up mostly (and mostly for remotely handled hearings) on June 1 (link). The emergency is however continued through June 19 (order).

Marin county court also remains closed until May 29 based on its own April 30 order, no word on a sooner reopening there yet. May 26 order confirms the date and provides some more detail, all matters to proceed remotely from June 1 on. Marin court adopted Zoom for video appearances, and those appearances are free of charge.

The above news are welcomed, I was wondering why not to keep the remote hearings and e-filing going, which are mostly available with the help of the CourtCall and e-filing providers (although not each court fully accepts e-files yet). Coming into the court in person is still a risky proposition, but remotely it could be all done, the technology is there. Keeping the courts open is important, and it can be done without physical contact for a large chunk of operations.

But please remain careful and avoid coming to courts in person. Why I am glad the courts are reopening for remote hearings, I don't understand why the lessening is made under the banner of an improving virus situation. Look at the graphs, published by the state ( If these were the graphs of some stock, I would say the trends of both the cases and the deaths are still creeping up, maybe slower, but not giving up yet. And while the number of cases' growth is not just due to the spread, but also because of the increased testing, the deaths are only increasing with the virus spread, and they are not declining. We went into the quarantine when there were recorded 3-4-9 deaths per day. We now have the latest spikes and valleys between 45-98 and 39-95 runs, I mean, over 10 times more deaths now from when the complete shutdown was ordered. Remote court operations are great, but when we need to be physically there, remember that there is no vaccine yet, so the risk of infection remains the same, hanging solely on the chance that each court visitor (and each co-commuter on the way to the court and back) had a mask or stayed home.
[update May 27]: we do now have "lows" in 20-19 region, and lower heights too, so the overall "curve" looks flat or even declining a bit, in approximation, but in no way ceasing or falling (i.e., after several days of declining, today's number of deaths was 70).

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