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How court shutdowns are affecting people’s cases

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2020 | Child Custody

Courts are currently closed and all proceedings that were scheduled during the court closure are postponed until further notice.  “What is going to happen with my case, now that the courts are closed?” is what many of us are thinking.  On March 19, 2020, the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego immediately suspended all non-emergency services, effective March 17, 2020 through April 3, 2020, in an effort to mitigate the community spread of the COVID-19.  Last week they further extended the closure until April 30, 2010.  The San Diego Superior Court is only allowing specific emergency services, such as civil harassment Temporary Restraining Orders, Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Orders, Gun Violence Protective Orders, etc.

As of now, all filings are suspended, except for filings for emergency services.  All matters are suspended, and all departments are closed.  All temporary restraining orders that are scheduled to expire between March 17, 2020 to April 30, 2020 have been automatically extended by 30 days and a new restraining order hearing is being set.  All court hearings and trials scheduled between March 17, 2020 to April 30, 2020 are being rescheduled until further notice.  For more information regarding the San Diego Superior Court’s closure, visit sdcourt.ca.gov.

The court closure is causing a lot of stress on parties.  Because hearings are being postponed and deadlines are being moved, people’s cases are being delayed and the court calendars are going to be overwhelmed once they reopen. If a party has an emergency, but it is not considered an “emergency service” for the Court, that party is left with limited options since they cannot file anything with the Court or appear Ex Parte (seeking an emergency hearing).  Several parents are dealing with custody issues, causing parents to make unilateral decisions that may not be in their children’s best interest.  It is best to seek legal assistance from an attorney before making any decisions in your case as it may have an adverse effect once the court’s begin hearing cases again.

With the Governor Gavin Newsom’s Stay at Home order, issued on March 19, 2020, most law firm offices have closed, and attorneys are working remotely.  In compliance with Gov. Newsom’s orders, most people are staying home and avoiding any in person contact.  Consequently, in person meetings with clients are no longer available, scheduled meditations and depositions are being postponed.  Clients are left thinking that their cases are currently on hold until the court opens, which is not necessarily true.  Despite the court closure, law firms remain open and attorneys continue to work on their client’s cases.  Clients can continue to communicate with their attorney by electronic mail or by telephone.  Attorneys continue to be available to provide consultation to people seeking legal advice or representation.

Depositions do not necessarily need to be postponed and neither do medications.  Some court reporter businesses are offering remote deposition services, that include online depositions and telephonic depositions.  Attorneys can continue to propound discovery, as a method to request specific information or documents from the other side.  Additionally, this is a good time for parties to attempt settlement.  In person mediation or meetings may not be available, but video conferencing is an alternative.  If you do not have an open case at court, but wish to file, an attorney can nonetheless begin working on your case.  For more information on how the court closure has affected or can affect your case and what your options are, please contact us for a free consultation.

By:  Anna Encinias, Esq., Attorney at Contreras Law Firm

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