On April 6, the Judicial Council adopted 11 Emergency Rules to address how the California courts will operate under the state’s statewide emergency order. On April 17, the Council added a 12th rule mandating electronic service of process for represented parties.
Many of the rules cover criminal and family proceedings. Several, however, will have a significant impact on civil litigation.
Emergency Rules Applicable to Civil Matters
- Rule 1 (Unlawful Detainers): Prohibits courts from issuing summons on an unlawful detainer complaint until 90 days after the state of emergency related to COVID-19 is lifted. The only exception is for an unlawful detainer action necessary to protect public health and safety.
- Rule 2 (Judicial foreclosures): Stays any action for judicial foreclosure and tolls any statute of limitations for filing such action until 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted.
- Rule 3 (Use of technology for remote appearances): Courts may now require judicial proceedings and court operations be conducted remotely, such as through video, the electronic authentication of documentary evidence, eFiling, and eService.
- Rule 9 (Tolling of the statute of limitations): All statutes of limitation for civil causes of action are tolled from April 6, 2020, until 90 days after the state of emergency related to COVID-19 is lifted.
- Rule 10 (Extensions of time in which to bring a civil action to trial): For all civil lawsuits filed before April 6, 2020, the time in which to bring a civil action to trial is extended by six months, for a total of five years and six months.
- Rule 11 (Depositions through remote electronic means): Any party or nonparty deponent, at their election or the election of the deposing party, is not required to be present with the deposition officer at the time of the deposition.
- Rule 12 (Mandatory electronic service for represented parties): A party represented by counsel must accept electronic service of process of a notice or document that may be served by mail, overnight delivery, or facsimile transmission. The serving party is responsible for confirming the appropriate electronic service address for counsel being served.
When serving electronically, it is safer and more secure to use an electronic notification service—such as that provided by One Legal—rather than relying on email. When you eService through One Legal, your eServe recipients are sent a notification email with a secure link to view the documents. You also receive time/date status updates when your serves are sent, opened, and viewed by the recipients.
- Interaction with local rules and general orders: Although state rules do provide blanket requirements applicable to some procedures, each county has the discretion to issue general orders and local rules. Visit your court’s website for the most up to date local information.
- Sunset provision: Unless otherwise repealed by the Judicial Council, the emergency rules will remain in effect until 90 days after the Governor lifts the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- If uncertain, consider contacting the court: Most courtrooms have email addresses that can receive communications from counsel (e.g., for scheduling questions, sending proposed orders, etc.). Remember, most courts are operating with minimal staff, and these emails are likely to be backlogged.