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Remote Court Proceedings Bill Approved at Eleventh Hour

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In the waning hours of the legislative session, SB 241 (Umberg) came together with no opposition to authorize remote court proceedings to continue until 2024. The legislation is considered a sea change for California’s court system. Just a couple years ago, court employee labor unions successfully promoted legislation to block judiciary spending on remote court reporting.

Representatives of the judges, the plaintiffs’ attorneys, and the defense counsel praised the compromise as continuing progress made during the pandemic, when many courts have been conducting cases remotely by phone or video appearance in connection with an emergency ruling from the California Supreme Court.

The issue was widely debated, with a large group of justices and lawyers advocating for remote proceedings to become a mainstay – in part because it makes for a more accessible justice system across the state. California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye also recommended that the state make remote access to the courts permanent.

On the other side, groups including court reporters and interpreters had asked the legislature to study the remote concept in more detail before finalizing legislation. Their concerns included access to technology, which could affect the due process rights of litigants.

Governor Newsom is expected to sign SB 241.

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