Archive for the ‘Legal’ Category

Contra Costa Superior Courts to reopen May 26

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020



Entrances and Exits. All buildings will operate a single entry/exit point. Please follow all signs carefully. The Court Street entrance for the Wakefield Taylor building in Martinez will not be open; use the Main Street entrance only.

No Nonessential Parties. Due to social distancing limitations, individuals who are not essential to Court matters should not accompany parties to Court for any matter or case type.

Drop Box Filings. Drop boxes will still be available from 9 A.M. – 3 P.M. (one hour after clerk’s office closure). Because clerk’s offices will experience high demand and significant wait times, the Court encourages you to file items by drop box. Items placed in the drop box before 3:00 p.m. will be file-stamped that day. Drop box locations are:

  • Civil: Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.
  • Criminal: Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.
  • Family: Main entrance of Family Law building in Martinez.
  • Juvenile: Main entrance of the Walnut Creek Courthouse.
  • Probate: Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.
  • Pittsburg and Richmond courthouses: These drop boxes are available only for filings in case types heard at those locations.

Jury Service. Jury service will resume. Be assured that we are working with the County Health Department to ensure your safety. Those summoned must follow the rules above for access to the Court, including wearing masks. To obey social distancing requirements, jurors will be called in two-hour blocks. See your jury summons for call-in information. No more than 50 jurors will be present in a jury assembly room at any time. If you are sick, exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or are a high-risk individual (e.g., over 60 years of age, immunocompromised, etc.), the Court will excuse you from service upon proof. Please call 925-608-1000 and follow the prompts for Jury Services.

Emergency Local Rules. All Emergency Local Rules remain in effect unless otherwise noted or as superseded by effect of the Court’s reopening. Rules are available at:

Filing Holidays. The Court is open for filing as of May 26, 2020. Filing holidays under this Court’s Implementation Orders and/or Emergency Local Rules expire as of the Court’s reopening. Judicial Council Emergency Rules of Court and/or orders of the Chief Justice, available on the Court’s website, may further extend filing holidays in certain cases. Review these carefully.

Records. The Court Records office in Martinez remains closed. The Court will only accept records requests and requests for background checks via drop box or mail, subject to all legal confidentiality exceptions. Do not wait in line or come to a clerk’s window with a records request.

Request forms may be downloaded from the appropriate Court Records webpage:

  • For Criminal matters and background checks: Submit by mail or use the Criminal drop box.
  • For any other matters: Submit by mail or use the drop box for the appropriate case type.

Specific Matters

  • Restraining Orders. The Court continues to accept applications for domestic violence, civil harassment, and gun violence restraining orders. For civil restraining orders, please review the Civil Emergency Local Rules. For domestic violence restraining orders and emergency protective orders, please review the Family Emergency Local Rules.
  • Traffic. The Court is in the process of rescheduling all traffic matters and you will receive a notice of new dates. Read your notice carefully: The location of your matter may differ from your original notice. All traffic matters have been granted a 120-day extension which also applies to payment deadlines as well as deadlines for traffic school and community service completion.
  • Small Claims. The Court will reschedule all small claims matters and provide notice of new dates. Read your notice carefully: The location of your matter may differ from your original notice.
  • Unlawful Detainer. The Judicial Council’s Emergency Rules of Court prohibit the Court from issuing a summons on any new unlawful detainer complaints, with limited exceptions for urgent public health and safety matters. For matters involving violence, threats of violence, and/or health and safety issues, parties should provide documents with the filing, such as a declaration under oath, relating facts supporting the urgency on those grounds.
  • Civil Limited and Unlimited.
  1. Hearings and filings will proceed under the Civil Emergency Local Rules. Hearings from May 18, 2020 through May 27, 2020, will go forward on fully-briefed matters. Briefs for hearings on May 28, 2020, or thereafter must be filed under normal statutory timeframes even if that requires a filing during the closure period. Review the Civil Emergency Local Rules for further information.
  2. The CourtCall process in the Civil Emergency Local Rules will be used for all hearings until further notice. Do not come to Court for your hearings.
  3. Review the Complex Emergency Local Rules for procedures for Complex cases.
  • Probate. All matters should be submitted via drop box. The Probate File Examiner Office will not be open to accept ex parte submissions until further notice. Review the Probate Emergency Local Rules for information on hearings and use of remote technology. The Probate department will be providing additional guidance separately.
  • Criminal Virtual and Emergency Courtrooms. These courtrooms will close as of May 26, 2020, except by written stipulation of the parties approved by the Presiding Judge.
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Drive-in churches now legal in California thanks to lawsuit victory

Friday, April 17th, 2020

“But, it’s problematic because going to church still isn’t considered essential” – Attorney Harmeet Dhillon

By Allen Payton

A victory, Friday in a lawsuit on freedom of worship is forcing California to allow drive-in church services.

The lawsuit against the State of California naming Governor Gavin Newsom over his executive order, was filed by San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon, founder of the non-profit Center for American Liberty and co-counsel Mark Meuser, on behalf of three southern California churches and one parishioner. (See related article)

According to twitter posts by Dhillon, a government brief filed late (Friday) morning claimed that “drive in” is a “technology” like streaming video, and now OK. In response to this executive order “clarification” by opposition brief, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties update(d) their health decrees to allow drive-in worship.

“This development is a partial victory in our lawsuit, but it still does not allow in-building services – meaning people seeking spiritual guidance and fellowship safely, are given no right to do so but the same people can visit wine, pot, food, laundry shops with a mask legally,” she tweeted.

“We continue to wait for ruling on TRO (temporary restraining order),” Dhillon continued. “People of faith may be treated no less favorably than any other people in California. Reporters, termite guys, tree trimmers, baristas, stir-fry chefs, grocery workers, and customers of all have rights – so do religious leaders & followers!”

She was asked why this applies to the entire state, when she was only representing the three churches and one parishioner in Southern California.

“But I sued the State of California over the statewide order, and the counties,” she explained.

The place where the so-called policy changes were announced are hidden in the ruling, with the state agreeing that “of course drive-in churches are a technology like streaming video,” Dhillon shared. “You and I both know that’s absurd. But, it’s problematic, because going to church still isn’t considered essential.”

There’s no requirement for the state to publicize the court’s decision.

“It’s sneaky,” she said.

Asked about her clients Dhillon said, “I’m only representing those who are socially responsible, like anyone else.”

According to their website, “The Center for American Liberty defends the Free Speech rights and Civil Liberties of Americans.”

“The non-profit hired my firm to represent the plaintiffs,” she explained.

The decision was handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, which also includes Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

“I’m glad we were able to do this. This is a small thing,” Dhillon added. “You’re probably not going to see a lot of drive-in churches in the next week or two. But, it’s better than nothing, dressing up, driving in and seeing your friends.”

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

U.S. Attorney General Barr issues statement on Religious Practice and Social Distancing

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Department of Justice files Statement of Interest in Mississippi church case

U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Official portrait by DOJ.

On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, United States Attorney General William P. Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, issued the following statement:

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the President has issued guidelines calling on all Americans to do their part to slow the spread of a dangerous and highly contagious virus.  Those measures are important because the virus is transmitted so easily from person to person, and because it all too often has life-threatening consequences for its victims, it has the potential to overwhelm health care systems when it surges.

To contain the virus and protect the most vulnerable among us, Americans have been asked, for a limited period of time, to practice rigorous social distancing.  The President has also asked Americans to listen to and follow directions issued by state and local authorities regarding social distancing.  Social distancing, while difficult and unfamiliar for a nation that has long prided itself on the strength of its voluntary associations, has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives from an imminent threat.  Scrupulously observing these guidelines is the best path to swiftly ending COVID-19’s profound disruptions to our national life and resuming the normal economic life of our country.  Citizens who seek to do otherwise are not merely assuming risk with respect to themselves, but are exposing others to danger.  In exigent circumstances, when the community as a whole faces an impending harm of this magnitude, and where the measures are tailored to meeting the imminent danger, the constitution does allow some temporary restriction on our liberties that would not be tolerated in normal circumstances.

But even in times of emergency, when reasonable and temporary restrictions are placed on rights, the First Amendment and federal statutory law prohibit discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers.  Thus, government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity. For example, if a government allows movie theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other comparable places of assembly to remain open and unrestricted, it may not order houses of worship to close, limit their congregation size, or otherwise impede religious gatherings.  Religious institutions must not be singled out for special burdens.

Today, the Department filed a Statement of Interest in support of a church in Mississippi that allegedly sought to hold parking lot worship services, in which congregants listened to their pastor preach over their car radios, while sitting in their cars in the church parking lot with their windows rolled up.  The City of Greenville fined congregants $500 per person for attending these parking lot services – while permitting citizens to attend nearby drive-in restaurants, even with their windows open.[1]  The City appears to have thereby singled churches out as the only essential service (as designated by the state of Mississippi) that may not operate despite following all CDC and state recommendations regarding social distancing.

As we explain in the Statement of Interest, where a state has not acted evenhandedly, it must have a compelling reason to impose restrictions on places of worship and must ensure that those restrictions are narrowly tailored to advance its compelling interest.  While we believe that during this period there is a sufficient basis for the social distancing rules that have been put in place, the scope and justification of restrictions beyond that will have to be assessed based on the circumstances as they evolve.

Religion and religious worship continue to be central to the lives of millions of Americans.  This is true more so than ever during this difficult time.  The pandemic has changed the ways Americans live their lives.  Religious communities have rallied to the critical need to protect the community from the spread of this disease by making services available online and in ways that otherwise comply with social distancing guidelines.

The United States Department of Justice will continue to ensure that religious freedom remains protected if any state or local government, in their response to COVID-19, singles out, targets, or discriminates against any house of worship for special restrictions.”

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

California Judicial Council adopts new rules to lower jail population, sets bail at $0, suspends evictions and foreclosures

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Judicial Council Chair, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye ran the teleconference call from the council’s office in Sacramento. Photo by JCC.

11 temporary emergency rules include $0 statewide bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies during COVID-19 pandemic to “safely reduce jail populations”

By Blaine Corren, Senior Communications and Public Affairs Analyst, California Judicial Council

VIA TELECONFERENCE—At its meeting on Monday, April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California approved 11 temporary emergency rules, including setting bail statewide at $0 for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies to “safely reduce jail populations” and staying eviction and foreclosure proceedings to protect Californians from losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the second emergency council meeting of court and branch leaders from around the state to consider further measures to ensure California courts—which remain open as “essential services” under Gov. Newsom’s stay-home executive order—can meet stringent health directives while also providing due process and access to justice.

“We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law, or precedent,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the council. “And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation. In developing these rules, we listened to suggestions from our justice system partners, the public, and the courts, and we greatly appreciate all of the input. Working with our court stakeholders, I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice. It’s truly a team effort.”

Members of the Judicial Council of California. Photo from 2018 by JCC.

The council received and considered more than 100 written comments on the new rules from judges, public defenders, district attorneys, law enforcement, legal aid and advocacy groups, unions, attorneys, court reporters, interpreters, and other justice system partners.

Among the actions the council approved, to go into effect immediately:

  • Suspend the entry of defaults in eviction cases;
  • Suspend judicial foreclosures;
  • Allow courts to require judicial proceedings and court operations be conducted remotely, with the defendant’s consent in criminal proceedings;
  • Adopt a statewide emergency bail schedule that sets bail at $0 for most misdemeanor and lower-level felony offenses;
  • Allow defendants to appear via counsel or remote technologies for pretrial criminal hearings;
  • Prioritize hearings and orders in juvenile justice proceedings and set a structure for remote hearings and continuances
  • Extend the timeframes for specified temporary restraining orders;
  • Extend the statutes of limitations governing civil actions; and
  • Allow electronic depositions in civil cases.

The council previously approved a number of temporary measures at its first emergency meeting Mar. 28 to give courts flexibility to continue to provide essential services to the public while protecting health and safety during the pandemic.

For a complete list of emergency orders taken by the California court system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, see the California Courts Newsroom.

About the Judicial Council

Under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution, the council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice. Judicial Council staff implements the council’s policies.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Antioch property owner threatens class action lawsuit against City and Council for renter eviction moratorium

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

By Allen Payton

Antioch Realtor and rental property owner Mark Jordan sent a “Cease and Desist Demand” to the members of the Antioch City Council on Friday, April 3 in response to their vote on March 31 to place a moratorium on evictions for both residential and commercial properties. The council’s actions give renters up to 90 days to repay for each month of rent they are unable to pay during the coronavirus pandemic. (See related article)

Following is Jordan’s email sent to Mayor Sean Wright and the four council members:

“Mr. Write (sic) and Council Members,

Please be advised that this letter constitutes a Cease and Desist Demand concerning the City of Antioch’s tortious interference in the terms of all rental agreements executed within the City of Antioch and which effect non owner occupied real property both residential and commercial.  (See action taken by Council March 31, 2020).

This Demand in no way acts to invalidate or argue the validity of Executive Order N-28-20 issued by the State of California.

You must rescind and revoke your order made March 31, 2020 and cease from your unlawful actions.  If you fail to act it is highly likely you will be faced with class action litigation which will most likely include significant punitive damages.  Understand clearly, this will most likely cost the City of Antioch million of dollars. You are not acting within the authority of Executive Order N-28-20.

Yes, I fully understand the nature of our world wide heath issue and the shelter in place order issued by the County Health Department. I further understand, and have read Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-28-20.  The question is; have any of you?

In your meeting of March 31, 2020 you have gone far beyond the State’s granted authority.  There is nothing within the Paragraphs 1 through 6 inclusive, granting you the power to determine the deferred rent payment and time period for a deferred payment.  This City governmental interference is therefore tortious interference at its face.

These are matters to be determined by the parties to the contracts and are subject to judicial review, not City dictate.

Given that you have acted illegally it is my position that your entire moratorium and action taken is without force or effect. Please remember you have no power or authority except through the State of California and an authority granted to you by the State. Please review the State Constitution.

Your rescission of the moratorium is required immediately.

Mark Jordan

In the past, Jordan has been successful suing the city. In 2016 he sued the City of Antioch for misappropriating funds from the water fees paid by residents and using them to pay for police. As a result, the City had to repay the water fund the amount that had been spent on police services. (See related article)

Asked if he had lined up other property owners to join him in a class action lawsuit, Jordan simply responded, “No I have not.

An email to City Attorney Thomas Smith was sent Saturday morning seeking a response to questions about the threatened lawsuit. Please check back later for updates to this report.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Contra Costa Superior Court remains closed through April 30, update on acceptance of filings

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

By Matt J. Malone, Public Information Officer, Superior Court of California, County of Contra Costa

The Court has requested authorization from the Chief Justice to continue its closure through April 30, 2020 and will issue a further release with details as to what Court operations will resume during any extended closure period.

While Court offices and facilities remain closed, the Court will begin accepting certain urgent filings as follows:

Emergency Criminal and Juvenile Matters. The Court will accept filings for emergency criminal and juvenile matters only beginning March 30, 2020.

o Criminal filings will be accepted via a drop box placed at the Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.

o Juvenile filings will be accepted via a drop box at the Walnut Creek Courthouse.

o “Emergency matters” will be specifically defined in Emergency Local Rules which will be posted on the Court’s website as soon as possible.

All other matters EXCEPT Traffic and Unlawful Detainer matters. The Court will begin accepting certain filings for these matters on April 6, 2020. Emergency Local Rules governing these filings will be posted to the Court’s website by April 1, 2020.

o Civil and Family filings will be accepted at a drop box placed at the Main Street entrance of the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez.

o Family filings only will also be accepted via a drop box at the front of the Family Law building in Martinez.

Unlawful Detainer matters may not be filed at this time.

Traffic matters will not be handled at this time. If you seek to pay or challenge a traffic ticket, the Court remains closed. Please contact the Court upon reopening. No Court penalties or fines accrue during the closure.

Additional drop boxes available at branch courts. Beginning April 6, drop boxes will also be made available at both the Pittsburg and Richmond branch courts only for filings in case types heard at those locations.

Acceptance of filings by mail/delivery. The Court will accept approved filings, as defined by the case-type Emergency Local Rules, by mail or other delivery such as FedEx. Couriers will not have access to Court facilities, only to the drop boxes.

The Court will not schedule hearings or reset hearings that were scheduled during the closure period until the Court reopens, with the exception of urgent matters described above and those to be set forth in Emergency Local Rules. The Court will inform you of the rescheduled hearing date. Please do not call the Court asking for a date.

The Court will be closed completely on March 31, 2020, in observance of the Cesar Chavez holiday.

As with its initial closure, the Court’s request for a continued emergency order and limited closure is not in response to a specific notice of exposure at any Court facility or to any Court staff.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

OP-ED: Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order for 40 million Californians to Shelter In Place is not an order, it’s a recommendation

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

By Mark Meuser

Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20. The Office of the Governor of California’s official Twitter account said that “Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians and to establish consistency across the state in order to slow the spread of COVID19.”

However, a more careful look at the Governor’s Executive Order shows that he actually made no such order. ( The Executive Order reads “To preserve the public health and safety, and to ensure the healthcare delivery system is capable of serving all, and prioritizing those at the highest risk and vulnerability, all residents are directed to immediately heed the current State public health directives, which I ordered the Department of Public Health to develop for the current statewide status of COVID-19.”

The word “heed” is the important word in this order. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word “heed” means “to give consideration or attention to”. As such, Governor Newsom has not actually ordered the people of California to obey the Public Health Officials but instead ordered “all residents are directed to immediately [give consideration to] the current State public health directives.”

While the Governor of California has broad powers to suspend laws and regulations while the state of California is under a State of Emergency, he does not have the power to abolish citizens constitutional rights. (Gov. Code § 8571).

California Constitution Article 1, Section 1 states “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

California Constitution Article 1, Section 7 reads “A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws …”.

The problem for Governor Newsom is that the Public Health Officials do not have the authority to quarantine someone who has not been infected. This violates Californians’ Constitutional Rights. The California Courts have held that people have a right of liberty from being quarantined unless the public health official has probably cause that they are infected. In Ex parte Arata, the California Court of Appeals ruled that “A mere suspicion, unsupported by facts giving rise to reasonable or probable cause, will not justify depriving a person of his liberty under an order of quarantine.”

Furthermore, in the case of In re Shepard the California Court of Appeals ruled that “Mere suspicion that an individual is afflicted with an isolable disease was not sufficient to give a health officer ‘reason to believe’ that such person was so afflicted, … making it the duty of health officers to protect the public against spread of such disease from persons whom such officers have ‘reason to believe’ were afflicted with such diseases.”

Public Health Officials do have the authority to quarantine someone who they have reason to believe has been infected by the virus. California law actually permits the Public Health Officials to quarantine such individuals without a court order. In Ex parte Johnson the California Court of Appeals ruled that “One infected with a contagious disease … might be subjected to quarantine regulations by the health commissioner of a city, without its first being judicially established by some proceeding in court that he or she was so infected.”

The reality of the situation in California is that Gavin Newsom has ordered the Department of Public Health to develop a policy for how to deal with the Corona Virus. However, the recommendations by the Department of Public Health are unconstitutional. Rather than ask the Department of Public Health to go back and rewrite the policies, Gavin Newsom tells everyone that he is ordering them to obey the directives of the Department of Public Health. However, regardless of what Gavin Newsom says with his mouth in press conferences or says on his social media accounts, the actual text of his Executive Orders are the laws. (Gov. Code § 8567).

The text of Gavin Newsom’s most recent Executive Order is merely a suggestion that the people of California obey the unconstitutional directive being published by the Department of Public Health. Whether or not it is advisable for people to stay home is not the question, the Department of Public Health does not have the authority to pass such a law, and Gavin Newsom does not have the authority to suspend Californians’ Constitutional Rights just because California is in a State of Emergency.

Meuser is a Constitution and elections law California attorney with the Dhillon Law Group. He is a former resident of Contra Costa County and 2018 candidate for California Secretary of State. You can follow him on Facebook.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Contra Costa Superior Courts to close until April 1 beginning Monday due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) – no fooling

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

In response to the unique and continuing public safety challenge presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the numerous public health orders suggesting or requiring that public gatherings be limited:

The Contra Costa County Superior Court will be closed at all locations for approximately two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. Court locations hope to re-open at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020. Please check the Court website – – for updates.

While the courts will be closed for most court cases starting on March 16, jurors who have been ordered to appear in court for criminal trials on Monday, March 16, must report to the court as ordered. At that time, the judges in those cases will provide guidance as to any further proceedings.

The Court appreciates the careful balance that must be maintained between the timely administration of justice and the protection of public health and safety. At the Court’s request and as permitted under Government Code section 68115, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court has issued an emergency order providing that, at least until April 1, 2020, the court closure will have the effect of being a public holiday as far as statutory or other timelines are concerned.

• If you have a hearing scheduled during this period, it will be reset to a later date. Notice of the new hearing date will be mailed to you or your attorney.

• If you are scheduled for jury service during this period, your service will be rescheduled. Notice of the rescheduled date will be mailed to you.

• Any in custody arraignments will be handled in Martinez, but all courthouses are closed to the public. Juvenile in custody arraignments will be handled in Martinez though closed to the public. Counsel will be permitted at all arraignments.

• If you need to seek an emergency protective order and/or a temporary guardianship, please contact your local police agency who will seek an appropriate order on your behalf.

• If you need to contact the juvenile or criminal arraignment departments, please call 925-608-1199.

Importantly, this closure is not in response to a specific notice of exposure at any Court facility or to any Court staff. Instead, it is in an abundance of caution to help limit the spread of the virus and the potential for future exposure.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter