Coronavirus has forced lawyers to try out new remoting practices. This week, our Ventura County Superior Court closed to general civil litigation for a week. The first three days were treated as court holidays, so any deadlines just got extended three days. Expect to see some very finely written briefs and pleadings in the pipeline. Also expect some delays in getting your case heard.
Attorneys scrambled to find out what happened to their civil hearings, and many learned that their cases were suddenly delayed by thirty days when the court sua sponte continued hearings for a month. Stipulations to continue trials burned up the interwebs. Depositions, looming in the witnesses’ consciousness, were postponed or rescheduled as videoconferences.
Suddenly settlements that looked reasonable became unfundable when business shutdowns choked off business incomes intended to fund the settlements. Clients fretted over legal bills, incurred in the previous month when many believed Covid-19 was not headed our way. Supply chains from overseas dwindled, and clients with contracts to fulfill were left emptyhanded.
Civil litigation can continue in a time of WFH—working from home. A law firm’s VPN or cloud computing combined with the California Electronic Transactions Act (Civil Code § 1633.1 et seq.) give the law office everything they need to continue pleading and briefing right on schedule. Our firm’s VPN provides access to my office desktop, containing our shared drive with all client files; our timekeeping program; and our email. Setting up our office voicemail to record as an email means no one knows if we’re WFH or WFO.
An electronic signature is defined as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the electronic record. For purposes of this title, a “digital signature” as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 16.5 of the Government Code is a type of electronic signature.”
With remote computing, a litigation brief can be drafted with legal research through traditional online tools, and the final brief can be electronically signed and e-filed and e-served. Electronic service is available by agreement or consent. (Civ. Proc. § 1010.6) When everyone’s in the same boat, they’ll see the wisdom of agreeing.