Late Friday Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye sent an advisory letter to all presiding judges and court executive officers strongly encouraging them to take further steps to mitigate the risks of the coronavirus. [link to full text here] Her suggestions for criminal matters closely track the positions advocated by CACJ’s President Eric Schweitzer in his letter to the C.J. on March 13. A summary of her recommendations:
Lower bail amounts significantly for the duration of the coronavirus emergency, including lowering the bail amount to $0 for many lower level offenses.
Consider a defendant's existing health conditions, and conditions existing at the anticipated place of confinement, in setting conditions of custody for adult or juvenile defendants.
Identify detainees with less than 60 days in custody to permit early release, with or without supervision or community-based treatment.
Determine the nature of supervision violations that will warrant detention in county jail, or "flash incarceration," to drastically reduce or eliminate its use during the current health crisis.
Prioritize arraignments and preliminary hearings for in-custody defendants, and the issuance of restraining orders.
Prioritize juvenile dependency detention hearings to ensure they are held within the time required by state and federal law.
Allow liberal use of telephone or video appearance by counsel and defendant for routine or non-critical criminal matters.
This is ammunition all of us can use to push our local courts to adopt these measures, and to move aggressively to reduce inmate populations during the pandemic. Start Monday morning doing everything you can to bring your in-custody client’s situation to the attention of the court. Since appearances are limited look to your court’s emergency orders for the best method to raise the issue. My Nevada County court is accepting e-filing of motions, so one avenue here would be a motion for immediate bail reduction/OR release efiled on behalf of each client with electronic service on the DA.
This is a new environment and all of us need to know the best way to protect our client’s rights and health. If you try something that works, send a report and a copy of any pleadings to email@example.com. If you try something that doesn’t work, send us a report at firstname.lastname@example.org
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