BREAKING: Newsom issues order giving CA chief justice power to suspend laws during crisis

KTLA5 reports Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order Friday giving California’s chief justice broad powers, including the right to suspend laws during the coronavirus crisis.

California law is filled with deadlines, many to protect the rights of criminal defendants, public access requirements and rules about how legal matters should to be conducted.

Newsom’s order gives Chief Jusice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the right to suspend these legal requirements during the pandemic.

With courts largely shut down, 1st Amendment groups have expressed concern that the pubic will be denied access to documents and proceedings conducted by telephone.

Per the LATimes, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was given unprecedented powers by Gov. Gavin Newsom, voted with other judicial leaders Saturday to recommend that courts use remote hearings to get people out of overcrowded jails.
During an emergency meeting of the Judicial Council, Cantil-Sakauye said the lack of court hearings and the closure of state prisons to new inmates has left California’s jails overcrowded in potentially unsafe conditions.

She said she has received “no assurance” that jails in California are practicing social distancing, that inmates can be transported to courthouses with social distancing or that courtrooms can practice it.

“This is about making sure the courts are not vectors,” she said.

Criminal defense lawyers trying to get clients out of jail have complained they have no way to file documents because court clerks have locked their doors.

Under normal circumstances, a defendant must appear for an arraignment in a preliminary hearing. The recommendation unanimously adopted Saturday calls on courts to use telephonic, audio or video conferencing whenever possible, including for criminal and juvenile proceedings. That includes arraignments and preliminary examinations.

The meeting of the Judicial Council, the policymaking body of the court system, underscored the difficulty of using technology for remote meetings during the coronavirus crisis.

The council’s conference call system initially collapsed because too many people, including the members, the public and the media, tried to get through at once. After about 45 minutes, another system was put in place and the meeting proceeded.

Newsom’s order, issued Friday, gives Cantil-Sakauye extraordinary powers, including the right to suspend laws.

The law is filled with deadlines, many to protect the rights of criminal defendants. There are public access requirements and rules about how legal matters should be conducted.

The governor said on Saturday the executive order was designed to give the judicial branch the flexibility that its leaders had asked for.

“This will allow them the ability, in real time, to meet the needs of the criminal and civil justice system,” he said during a COVID-19 news conference in San Jose.