Chief Judge Dana M. Sabraw issued five Chief Judge Orders (“CJO”) governing operations within the Southern District of California, which went into effect on June 15, 2021. See CJO Nos. 36-C, 58-A, 59-A, 62-B, and 63-C (available at https://www.casd.uscourts.gov/rules/general-orders.aspx#tab2). Some of the key provisions of these orders are summarized below.
July 6, 2021, marked a big milestone for the Court with regard to its trial reopening plan. CJO No. 36-C provides for no limitations “on the number of juries that may be selected in any one week,” and district judges are able to select juries in their own courtrooms. For criminal trials, however, “no more than five in-custody defendants can proceed to trial during any one week” until further order of the Court. See CJO No. 36-C. This limitation on criminal trials aims to address applicable health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Id. Additionally, pursuant to CJO No. 58-A, grand jury proceedings may be held in person at the United States Attorney’s Office with no capacity restrictions.
For civil case proceedings, judges may continue to conduct court proceedings by telephone or video conferencing where practicable and consistent with the law. See CJO No. 62-B. The Civil Local Rules' requirements for in-person early neutral evaluation and mandatory settlement conferences continue to be suspended until further order of the Court. Id.
For criminal case proceedings, the use of video teleconferencing, or telephone conferencing if video teleconferencing is not reasonably available, continues to be authorized for certain proceedings as outlined in CJO No. 63-C. Felony plea and sentencing proceedings continue to be conducted in person. Id. CJO No. 63-C also provides for the exclusion of time under the Speedy Trial Act, which has been further extended until August 1, 2021, absent further order of the Court or that of any individual district judge.
As to the Court’s safety protocols, masks are only required for persons who are not fully vaccinated, but all persons should continue to follow social distancing requirements posted throughout the facilities. See CJO No. 59-A.