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New Release from Los Angeles Superior Family Court April 16, 2020

More details from Judge Riff about LA Superior Court’s Family Law Division during the emergency:

Dear LASC Family Law Community:

Judge Brazile and I would like to supplement the webinar presentation of last Friday with some further family law-directed information and answers to questions. A fair amount here; sorry for the length.

NEW ORDERS/RULES

Q: How does Judge Brazile’s new General Order of April 14, 2020 affect Family Law operations heretofore conducted under Judge Brazile’s March 23, 2020 General Order?
A: Not at all. The key point for FL is that the LASC’s period of closure/essential functions is extended to May 12, 2020. The essential functions of the FL Division remain as they have been: we are open to (1) consider ex-parte applications; (2) process restraining order applications; (3) conduct restraining order hearings where parties do not agree to a continuance and/or justice requires the hearing go forward; and (4) certain Hague Convention (international kidnapping) proceedings.

Q: What happens on May 12?
A: This will depend on public health advisories and directives from other entities, state and county, as to the extent to which stay-at-home orders remain or are modified. We think there is a good chance that our court closure/essential function period may be extended beyond May 12 and we will not know for sure until we are close to May 12.

Q: What is the June 22 date?
A: It is the date that Judge Brazile and our Covid Task Force have asked judicial officers and staff to assume is the date we will recommence standard operations. All of our planning in the FL Division is based upon that date for now. We again advise that “standard operations” will be far from standard as we expect, whenever we reopen, to be accommodating social distancing and other non-standard conditions.

Q: How does new Emergency Rule 12 promulgated by the Judicial Council and made effective today affect Family Law?
A: It pertains to electronic service and applies to proceedings under the Family Code. There are specific rules and we recommend you should read it. Note well that civil harassment, elder abuse and workplace violence restraining order do not fall into the definition of “general civil case” (CRC 1.6) nor do they arise under the Family Code even though they are heard in the Family Law Division. DVRO matters arise under the Family Code.

THE RAMP UP FOR FAMILY LAW

Q: What is the process for the FL Division to set, continue and repopulate calendars? Less abstractly, when will I know when my matter will be heard?
A: Judge Brazile has approved a ramp up plan for the FL Division which is based upon the priority of the relief requested. I earlier mentioned that we will start with those matters where the relief requested involves physical safety and the provision of resources for food and shelter. Every judicial officer in the FL Division is, as of today, undertaking a process of placing every matter now on calendar into a priority categorization scheme with the goal of being able to set or continue matters thoughtfully on calendars per the priority scheme. There are many, many (many) thousands of such calendar matters to be triaged. In addition, new matters are being filed daily that also need and will need this triage.

Judicial officers and staff will begin the process of setting new dates and notifying litigants. This is going to take time; at least some weeks.

Q: What about continued dates between April 16 and May 12? And between May 12 and June 22?
A: Unless they relate to restraining order hearings, you can expect a further continuance.

Q: It sounds like it could get confusing with so many continuances.
A: Agreed. It will be confusing and for a while, it will be less than clear. Our goal is for dates set after June 22 to be “real” dates but there will no doubt be some continuances of those as well.

EMAIL FILING FOR EX-PARTE APPLICATIONS
The Family Law Division has now implemented the use of “Resource Accounts” for litigants to electronically file by email ex-parte applications and oppositions, and to pay required fees (if any). This modality is offered only during the current period of court closure/essential function. The Court will be releasing a Notice to Attorneys shortly; this modality is now available and we advise of it now as its use may enhance our social distancing initiatives.

Accordingly, parties and counsel need not appear to present ex-parte applications and oppositions. Persons wanting to be available in the event of a hearing on such applications may attend the court session by CourtCall.

Parties will attach their papers to a completed Judicial Council Form MC-005 (including payment information if applicable) and transmitting those papers to the Resource Account. No fees need be paid if the litigant has previously been granted a fee waiver.

Ex-parte papers must be submitted to the Resource Account no later than the filing deadlines set forth in LASC Local Rule 5.3. Nothing changes rules concerning notice. Parties are encouraged to electronically transmit their ex-parte papers to the other parties and to state in their papers that they did so.

Litigants should include the Court's case number and case name (in that order) on the "subject line" when transmitting papers for filing via the resource account.

Parties should expect the clerk will serve the Court’s order on the ex-parte application upon the moving party within one court day of the Court’s ruling using the same resource account. Parties should expect the Court to order the moving party to transmit the order on all other parties forthwith by electronic means and to file a proof of service thereafter.

Listed below are the Resource Accounts assigned to the districts in which the Family Law Division has court operations.

Antelope Valley Courthouse
ATP-ExParte@lacourt.org
Chatsworth Courthouse
CHA-ExParte@lacourt.org
Compton Courthouse
COM-ExParte@lacourt.org
Long Beach Courthouse
LBC-ExParte@lacourt.org
Pasadena Courthouse
PAS-ExParte@lacourt.org
Pomona Courthouse
POM-ExParte@lacourt.org
Santa Monica Courthouse
SAM-ExParte@lacourt.org
Stanley Mosk
SMC-ExParte@lacourt.org
Torrance
TOR-ExParte@lacourt.org
Van Nuys - East
VNE-ExParte@lacourt.org
Whittier
WHI-ExParte@lacourt.org

REMOTE COURT HEARINGS

The Court is continuing to test the use of WebEx for hearings in restraining order matters during the period of court closure/essential functions. Presently, there are two departments set up to hold such hearings, Department 18 and Department 22 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. If a RO hearing must go forward during our closure/essential function period, and one or more participants cannot attend in person, a WebEx hearing set in one of these two departments is a solution.

We have specific directions as to “How to Participate in Your Restraining Order Hearing Through WebEx”. I have forwarded a PDF to Mr. Yamamoto and Mr. Brot and I hereby ask them to arrange for posting on the LACBA FL list serve.

The judicial officer presiding over your restraining order will have the discretion whether to permit or to order a WebEx hearing which hearing will be set on reasonable notice to the parties.

SOME OTHER QUESTIONS

Q: Where should we file non-emergency filings—in the district where the case is venued or Central?
A: Non-emergency filings should still be filed in the designated filing location. Acceptance of filings is not restricted due to court closures, and fax filing, drop box or mail options are available for all our family law courthouses.

Q: Is the Court requiring a 12 advance filing for telephonic appearance requests per FL-679?
A: No. We do not want folks coming to court during our closure/essential function period but we also want to hear from litigants who are not coming to court so we know their intentions concerning their case. Our departments open CourtCall lines and will engage with litigants on the telephone. Whether the hearing will proceed via CourtCall is a discretionary call for the judicial officer.

Thanks to all. Have a nice weekend.

Judge Riff

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