California’s Government Code provides procedures for judicial emergencies in this state. Government Code Section 68115 deals with instances of war, an act of terrorism, public unrest or calamity, epidemic, natural disaster, or other substantial risk to the health and welfare of court personnel or the public, as well as a large influx of criminal cases within a short period of time, or a state of emergency proclaimed by the Governor or the President.
If any of these circumstances threaten the orderly operation of a superior court location or locations within a county or renders presence in, or access to, an affected court facility or facilities unsafe, the presiding judge may request and the Chairperson of the Judicial Council may by order authorize the court to do one or more of the following:
- Hold sessions anywhere within the county.
- Transfer civil cases pending trial in the court to a superior court in another county.
- is transferred pursuant to rules to be provided by the Judicial Council.
- Declare that a date or dates on which an emergency condition, as described in this section, substantially interfered with the public’s ability to file papers in a court facility or facilities be deemed a holiday for purposes of computing the time for filing papers with the court.
- Declare that a date on which an emergency condition prevented the court from either conducting proceedings governed by the Penal Code or the Welfare and Institutions Code, be deemed a holiday for purposes of computing time under those statutes.
- Extend the time periods provided in the Code of Civil Procedure to bring an action to trial.
- Extend the duration of any temporary restraining order that would otherwise expire because an emergency condition.
- Within the affected county during a state of emergency resulting from a natural or human-made disaster proclaimed by the President of the United States or by the Governor, extend the time period provided within which a defendant charged with a felony offense shall be taken before a magistrate from 48 hours to not more than seven days.
- Extend the time period provided for the holding of a preliminary examination from 10 court days to not more than 15 court days.
- Extend the time period provided within which the trial must be held by not more than 30 days, but the trial of a defendant in custody whose time is so extended shall be given precedence over all other cases.
In addition, if the Chairperson of the Judicial Council determines that a circumstance warranting relief threatens the orderly operation of superior court locations in more than one county, or renders presence in, or access to affected facilities unsafe, the Chairperson of the Judicial Council may issue an order sua sponte authorizing multiple courts some or all of the relief set forth above.
Section 68116 provides that any order of the Chairperson of the Judicial Council pursuant to this chapter takes effect immediately upon its issuance. The Chairperson of the Judicial Council may at any time revoke or terminate his or her order or any part of the order.
Section 68117 provides that the Chairman of the Judicial Council may direct the payment of the costs of assigned judges, court facilities and other costs or expenses required by reason of the judicial emergency to be paid from funds appropriated to the Judicial Council for this purpose.
Section 68118 provides that nothing in this chapter curtails the right of a defendant in a criminal case to a fair and speedy trial or authorize the trial of such a defendant by jurors drawn from a jury panel of a court outside the county of trial.
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