Join Us July 29!

I hope everyone out there is getting a bit of a summer break and getting comfortable with the “world after.”

As for the “world after,” I am delighted to invite our fully vaccinated members (at least those who aren’t getting their summer break then) to MCBA’s Midsummer Mixer on Thursday July 29 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Way Station Smoke House in Fairfax. BBQ and appetizers and a full range of wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the $20 cost. An even better deal—free!—is available to all new MCBA members who joined MCBA in 2020 or 2021 and to all members of the Barristers section (in practice 10 years or less). Call the MCBA office for a discount code.

The Way Station features a large, private, enclosed outdoor area and we’ve reserved the entire venue so that our members and their guests can feel safe in an outdoor setting. After more than a year apart, we hope you’ll come catch up with old friends and meet new members. The Board and I are very much looking forward to seeing everyone at our first in-person event since February 2020. Time flies! Early registration is recommended, which you can do right here.

I’d also like to mention that one of our most popular events of the year will take place over Zoom: Professor Rory Little will once again regale us with tales of the recent Supreme Court term. Don’t miss this fascinating event on July 22 at noon.

Gary T. Ragghianti Lifetime Achievement Award

Our in-person events continue this fall with our biggest event of the year: the Lifetime Achievement party for Gary T. Ragghianti. As devoted readers will recall, a pandemic interfered with our original date in May 2020 (what else but a worldwide disaster could delay honoring Gary?) and we’ve now rescheduled the party for Friday, October 8, at the Marin Country Club. To register, click here. For more information on providing written tributes to Gary for the event program, please call the MCBA office at 415.499.1314.

The Courts Have Reopened for Business with a New Normal

I am very happy to report that, as of July 6, 2021, the Marin County Superior Court has reopened for in-person hearings and trials in all departments except criminal, which will reopen July 26.

Some business will take place like the old normal: the judges in the Civil, Family Law, and Probate Departments are currently scheduling all evidentiary hearings, including trials, for in-person appearances in the same “old school” manner as before the pandemic. In fact, all of the civil departments already have in-person court trials and jury trials set into the summer of 2022, but trial dates are still available between now and next summer. Not surprisingly, the departments have greater flexibility in setting court trials.

But plenty of business will take place in a new normal: remote appearances over Zoom for evidentiary hearings may be permitted on a case-by-case basis, as agreed by the parties, with Court approval, or by order of the Court, in a manner consistent with Emergency Order 3. All non-evidentiary matters will be held in a hybrid manner: attorneys and litigants may appear in person or over Zoom, at their election. No prior notice of a party’s election to appear in person or over Zoom is required. The Court will have technology set up in the courtrooms to allow people in the courtrooms to see remote participants and vice versa. The Court considers any matter where a person testifies to be an evidentiary matter, requiring in-person appearance. Mandatory settlement conferences and unlawful detainer settlement conferences will continue to be held remotely over Zoom, as will small claims cases.

When the Criminal Department reopens for in-person evidentiary hearings on July 26, it will hold criminal jury trials in a single courtroom. Prospective jurors will be coming to the Court in person for normal voir dire. The Court is developing processes to help jurors and prospective jurors feel comfortable by ordering smaller panels, providing air filters, and other measures.

The Court requires everyone entering the Courthouse to either be vaccinated or wear masks. Anyone entering the Courthouse without a mask is certifying that they have been vaccinated. All jurors will be given questionnaires about their vaccination status. Jurors and all other persons who are not vaccinated will be required to wear masks at all times in the Courthouse. Aside from this mask rule, the Court is no longer enforcing social distancing or other pandemic rules in the Courthouse.

I’m also very happy to report that as of June 17, the Civil Clerk’s office and Court Records Division opened for in-person services by appointment for all document filing types. If preferred, matters may still be submitted to the Court in the drop box outside of Room 113 or by mail and will be processed in the order received. The Court Records Division is open for copies and research but public access to physical files and research PCs remains unavailable.

So that’s it people: We are getting through this thing! It appears that with some flexibility and creativity all around, we may end the pandemic with better processes than we had before to provide fair and open access to the court system for our members and the entire Marin community.