SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California judicial leaders are expected to adopt a statewide emergency order setting bail at zero for lower-level offenses and suspending evictions and foreclosures to deal with the COVID-19 crisis that has crippled the state’s court system.
The Judicial Council was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to vote on nearly a dozen temporary rules, including a proposal to hold criminal and juvenile proceedings by video or telephone in order to ensure that defendants are not held in custody without timely hearings.
In criminal proceedings, the defendant must agree before a court hearing can be held remotely.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, trial courts must protect defendants’ constitutional rights to have the assistance of counsel and to be personally present with counsel, and at the same time take steps to protect the health of defendants, judicial officers, court staff, counsel, and all those who are required to be present in court,” a report prepared for the meeting said.
The report said courts have been operating with a greatly reduced work force since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order on March 20 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The proposal to lower bail at $0 for misdemeanor and lower-level felony offenses is intended to reduce the jail population and limit the spread of the coronavirus.