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This is a family court DV case in CA, which a trial was held and both parties prevailed in prosecution but failed in defense. After the trial, a party timely filed a new trial motion seeking a new trial (primarily on the basis of errors of law, and additionally on abuse of discretion), and subsequently filed an amended motion in a month when transcripts became available. In response, the court vacated the original hearing date for new trial motion, and set it for a later date when the amendment was filed.

However, the coronavirus crisis happened. As a result, 2 weeks before the hearing, the clerk of the court moved the hearing for the motion to a later date, presumably following the general order from presiding judge which limits the type of hearings the court could have during COVID-19 crisis.

There is one problem: the new hearing date is set to be more than 30 days beyond the 75-day deadline set in CCP 660. This means at the time of the hearing, the court no longer has jurisdiction over the motion (see also Maroney v. Iacobsohn). In this scenario, the motion would be considered denied by operation of law, as discussed in Maroney.

To address this issue, the moving party filed an ex-parte request, asking the court to move the hearing back to its original date, or to just rule without oral arguments. The court denied the request, citing "the court deems tolled the statutory time limits" thus "the moving party's motion won't fail by operation of law". Although the court's view seems reasonable, its legal foundation is ambiguous. The doctrine of tolling generally applies to computing statute of limitations for new filing by litigants, not the court. Additionally, nothing in the statute seems to support the court's view on this matter.

Given the motion for new trial is purely a statutory right and the higher courts have been historically very firm and rigid in terms of its procedures and deadlines (again see Maroney and cases cited), it calls the question whether the court's view is valid, and whether the moving party should seek a higher court to review the trial court's order.

Can anybody shed any insight into this? Was there any case in the past where there is an ongoing emergency that severely impaired the court's functions, and statutory deadlines are extended?

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  • So, after reading all of that, the actual question is whether a precedent exists of deadlines being pushed because of an emergency, which takes up a single sentence and has no reliance on the entirety of the previous post. – Nij Apr 3 '20 at 2:27
  • @Nij It depends. Even if a precedent exists, it doesn't necessarily apply to the the facts and procedures and the types of the motions in this case. Even if they do apply, the reviewing court won't grant the writ of mandamus unless the situation is warranted and no alternative relief is available. Therefore, I think the context is at least a relevant part of the issue here. And it goes without saying new trial motions as provided in CCP 656-663.2 have different procedural requirements compared to other post-trial motions. – aaronqli Apr 3 '20 at 2:37
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    Hey, so answers that simply provide a link aren't allowed, but I don't see the point in regurgitating this memo on a rather complicated and, by all means, very fluid topic which may change on a moment's notice, so I suggest reading through this document from the Congressional Research Service from 3/30/20, entitled "The Courts and COVID-19": crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/LSB/LSB10437. I believe it speaks to what you're asking about and, in sum, I'd suggest that in the scenario you describe, the movant is probably fine, but it's unclear! – A.fm. Apr 4 '20 at 23:55
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    After you read through that, if you do, I'd be interested to hear whether you feel it addresses your question and, if so, what thoughts you have and if not, why not. We could pick this up in chat here: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/106333/the-courts-and-covid-19 – A.fm. Apr 4 '20 at 23:58
  • @A.fm. thanks. I read the article. It seems to be suggesting the view that jurisdictional deadlines (like the one for ruling on new trial motion) is still problematic, because the court has no power to extend the deadline without the permission from the legislature body. New emergency orders seem to be coming out every few days, so I can only hope they come up with something soon. The latest general order (4/3) from the court is still leaving post trial motions and issues with jurisdictional deadlines unaddressed. – aaronqli Apr 7 '20 at 3:43

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