The coronavirus pandemic changed every aspect of life in California. Though the health crisis has improved, the long-term effects of COVID continue to affect us in many different ways. One of the big problems facing the legal profession is access to the state court system. Emergency procedures shut the courts down entirely in the early days of the pandemic. Soon, the courts operated on a limited basis, but even these short closures caused serious problems in a backlog that existed long before the COVID crisis. Reuters reports on the emergency COVID-19 orders that were rescinded in March 2022. After two full years, the California court system is no longer operating under restrictions. This change does not mean that it will be business as usual for every litigant seeking help in the courts.
The state court system enacted many emergency procedures to protect the health and safety of all litigants during the COVID-19 pandemic. These steps included remote hearings, mask use, and restricting the number of people in a courtroom at the same time. These restrictions have been lifted as the health crisis improves. You are more likely to find normal court procedures in cases throughout the state. The courts’ limited operations during COVID have, however, created a backlog. As a result, it can take much longer to get a court date at all.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic reached California, there was already a long wait for trial dates in the state court. Law.com reports that it took about 500 days for a case to go to trial in the California court system back in February. This statistic was measured before any court closures occurred. Now, judges and court staff are working diligently to work through a pandemic backlog, but it can take years to get the waitlist back to pre-pandemic numbers.
So what is a business owner to do? Long delays do not mean that legal rights can be ignored entirely. First, it is important to get your lawsuit filed so that you can at least get on the court docket. In some cases, the mere act of filing a lawsuit is enough to encourage the other party to settle. If not, you will still get a place in line and show the other side that you are serious about enforcing your legal rights. Second, even if the case does not settle right away, a long wait can give parties more incentive to settle their claims during pretrial procedures. A lengthy wait for trial is usually not in the interest of a plaintiff or a defendant. Though the parties might start far apart in settlement negotiations, the prospect of waiting for years to get a trial can often lead to settlements in even the most contentious cases.
The experienced California litigators at Structure Law Group are experienced corporate lawyers. We know how to navigate the changes to our court systems in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Call (408) 441-7500 to schedule a consultation or contact us online.