The Future of Remote Court in California
Topics: Legal Information
Remote court proceedings are no longer viewed as merely temporary pandemic-induced measures in California. They have become part of everyday litigation practice. A report to the California Judicial Council pushing for increased use of remote technology emphasizes that courts, lawyers, and clients benefit from remote access. The report notes that remote proceedings remove barriers to in-person participation for court users, “such as job constraints, lost income from work, childcare needs, transportation issues, traffic congestion in urban areas, and length of travel for rural communities.” On the other hand, concerns raised include “challenges providing adequate interpreting services when they [are] not physically present with the court user” and some lawyers’ “desire to be physically present with their client to ensure that clients fully understand the court proceedings.”
In June of this year, the Legislature enacted AB 199, which authorizes the use of remote proceedings in criminal matters but maintains the court’s right to require the physical presence of any defendant in a felony proceeding. In misdemeanor cases, the accused may appear remotely for everything except a trial. In felony cases, the same rule applies, but the court may waive the accused’s presence for portions of trial where their presence is not necessary.
In 2021, the Legislature enacted SB 241, which broadly allows for the use of remote proceedings in civil and juvenile dependency proceedings, subject to certain technological and procedural requirements. CDF previously covered SB 241 and its impact on employment law here. The bill is set to sunset on July 1, 2023.
Earlier this year, the Senate unanimously passed SB 848, which would extend the sunset date for remote attendance at depositions, hearings, and trials to January 1, 2026. However, the Assembly Appropriations Committee has since drafted new and limiting provisions to the bill that would prohibit juvenile delinquency and civil commitments from being conducted remotely. Critics opposed the bill unless the added prohibitions were removed, emphasizing the importance of remote access, and noting that forcing minors and potentially hospitalized parties to travel to court for appearances would have guaranteed negative economic consequences.
While the Senate ultimately rejected the Assembly’s amendments to SB 848, similar legislation could be reintroduced during the new legislative session beginning in January.
The scope of use of remote proceedings in employment law cases in the California courts affects the costs of litigation and can also influence the outcome of hearings and matters. CDF will continue to monitor legislation affecting remote court proceedings in our state and provide readers with any updates.