COVID-19 and Civil Litigation – What has Changed with Our California Superior Courts?

AdobeStock_326855505-300x204Courts across the United States have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With court closures, modifications of hours, countless restrictions, and case backlogs, courts (and litigants) have faced unique challenges.

As courts in California and across the country still face a significant backlog of cases due to the pandemic, many courts have embraced technology and are expected to continue using video and audio platforms and holding virtual hearings, depositions, and even trials in an attempt to improve public safety.

Below, we will talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed California’s Superior Courts.

Are California Courts Open or Closed Right Now?

Courts across the state are fully open, while court hearings are occurring as scheduled. Some courts require face coverings for all non-vaccinated individuals, while others do not. Entrance health screenings are no longer necessary in most California courts.

Local courts can use judicial discretion to conduct civil litigation and criminal cases via telephonic hearings and videoconferencing. This is perhaps the most significant change made possible by the pandemic.

Moreover, California’s Superior Courts are authorized to adopt rules to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease. The rules can take effect immediately. While trials by jury are no longer suspended across the state, individual courts can use discretion to modify jury trials appropriately, such as by limiting in-person observers, allowing witnesses to testify remotely, and requiring jurors to socially distance.

The Lasting Impact of COVID on California’s Superior Courts

The embrace of technology by California courts during the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact not just on current proceedings but also on the future of the judicial system. Virtual hearings are likely to have a lasting impact on courts in California and across the country.

Here are other lasting effects of the COVID crisis on the judicial system in the United States:

  • Greater opportunities for alternative dispute resolution (ADR). There has been an increased interest in mediation and other alternative dispute resolution mechanism as a tool to resolve disputes without the need to have traditional litigation. Common ADR options include mediation and arbitration.
  • Increased use of remote technology. Courts across the country have embraced technology to conduct remote hearings and are expected to expand the use of remote technologies in the future. California’s Superior Courts are likely to continue using video and audio platforms to hold virtual hearings and trials.
  • Changes in rules of the judicial system. Legislators are expected to change rules of civil procedure to adapt to the post-COVID world.

So far, the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on California’s Superior Courts remain largely unknown. Only time will tell how the coronavirus crisis will affect the judicial system in the long run.


From mandatory face coverings and entrance health screenings to virtual hearings and state court closures, courts across California have experienced tremendous changes during the coronavirus crisis.

While there will be lasting effects of the COVID pandemic on the judicial system, the full extent of the impact remains unknown at this point. Specifically, California’s Superior Courts are expected to continue using remote technology and offering greater opportunities for ADR methods.

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Like almost every other aspect of life, your legal rights could be impacted by the coronavirus. Consult with the experienced San Jose business lawyers at Structure Law Group. Call (408) 441-7500 or contact us through our website to schedule a consultation.