California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Tuesday named members to an ad hoc working group that will determine which of the practices California courts adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic should remain in place after the pandemic is over.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, in what we now call Phase 1, the Judicial Council used emergency powers given to us by the Governor to help court users and our court family to be safe while keeping our doors open, both virtually and physically,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. “Phase 2 of pandemic planning is reflected in the Governor’s January budget proposals now under consideration in the Legislature. Phase 3 planning will focus on refining and enhancing court practices based on lessons learned during this past year.”

The Ad Hoc Workgroup on Post-Pandemic Initiatives will examine successful court practices implemented during the pandemic and recommend those that seem most likely to increase access to justice, modernize court services, and promote statewide consistency and uniformity.

In April 2020, shortly after the pandemic took hold in the United States, the California Judicial Council adopted a slate of emergency response measures to maintain court services while protecting public health. The measures included a rule allowing remote depositions, rules allowing criminal hearings to be conducted remotely with defendants’ consent, and rules streamlining and setting a remote structure for juvenile justice proceedings.

In her statement, Cantil-Sakauye pointed to the remote management of juvenile dependency cases as a practice that might outlast the pandemic. “Some of our preliminary research shows, for example, that courts were able to dispose of more juvenile dependency cases because of remote hearings, and many of the youth involved in those cases report that they preferred the remote hearings because they feel safer,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

The Chief Justice is also asking the working group to consider changes to alternative dispute resolution practices and jury system reform, such as the online screening of jurors. Cantil-Sakauye also requested that the working group examine ways to streamline and modernize case processing practices, including remote proceedings.

The working group, which will consist of Judicial Council members, will be chaired by Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Marsha Slough. Other members will include Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile and Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Delaney, who is the president of the California Judges Association.

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