Judicial Council Rescinds COVID-19 Emergency Bail Rules, Suspends Vote on Changes to Eviction and Foreclosure Rules
June 11, 2020
In a surprise move, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye suspended a vote on changes to emergency rules limiting residential evictions and foreclosures, in effect keeping the COVID-19 enacted ban in place. The Judicial Council voted 17-2 to rescind, effective June 20, the COVID-19 temporary bail schedule that set presumptive bail at $0 for people accused of lower-level crimes, a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 in jails and surrounding communities. At the same time, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye rescinded the statewide order extending time for defendants to be arraigned. That change would require defendants again be arraigned within 48 hours.
Statewide COVID-19 Emergency Bail Schedule and Arraignment Time Extension
The COVID-19 emergency bail schedule set bail at $0 for most people accused, but not yet tried, of misdemeanors and lower-level felonies. As with a regular bail schedule, a judge could raise or deny bail and impose reasonable conditions on releases to protect public safety or assure future court appearances. Those accused of violent felonies, offenses requiring sex offender registration, domestic violence, stalking, or driving under the influence were not eligible.
The Judicial Council’s review and rescission of the rule came as milestones were met:
- State prisons are expected to reopen intake and allow transfers of convicted inmates from jails in all 58 counties to state institutions by June 19, which will continue to lower jail populations.
- More than 20,000 defendants accused of lower-level offenses have been released before their trials from California’s jails since the start of the pandemic, helping keep jails and courts from becoming vectors for the spread of COVID-19 between inmates, jail staff, and surrounding communities.
The Judicial Council report suggested courts could keep the emergency COVID-19 bail schedule or reduce bail schedules where appropriate and maximize the safe release of arrestees before or at arraignment. Some counties voluntarily adopted their own COVID-19 emergency bail schedules based on the Chief Justice’s March 20 guidance.
Evictions and Judicial Foreclosures
The Judicial Council instituted two emergency rules related to evictions and judicial foreclosures on April 6. The eviction rule prohibits the issuance of summons or entering of default judgments in unlawful detainer actions unless the case involves public health and safety issues, and provides that trials be set at least 60 days after a request for trial. The foreclosure rule stays all judicial foreclosure actions brought under Code of Civil Procedure section 725a et seq., tolls the statute of limitation for such actions, and extends all deadlines of electing or exercising any rights related to such action.
These two emergency rules were initially set to expire 90 days after the Governor lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency. The Judicial Council proposed a sunset of the emergency rules as of August 3. The full report on the circulating order is available here. The suspended vote means the emergency rules remain in effect.
As a reminder, Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-66-20 extended until July 28, 2020 the provisions of paragraph two of Executive Order N-28-20, which clarify the authority of local governments to enact restrictions on residential and commercial evictions for non-payment of rent due to impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.