Alameda County
Bar Association

Judge Syren – Family Law Update 4.17.20 
A CDC graphic of the COVID-19 virus via MGN

April 17, 2020

Commencing April 20, 2020, the court will begin to hold limited hearings in family law pursuant to Local Emergency Rule 3.29.  Family law hearings will be scheduled on Mondays and Thursdays.  Attorneys and litigants will be noticed by the court at least 48 hours before any scheduled video hearing.  Family law bench officers have identified which cases they considered of the highest priority in setting video hearings.  The identified cases may include cases calendared but not heard since the emergency shut down, cases calendared the same week as the video hearing or upcoming cases on future calendars.  The Court is looking for cooperation and a willingness by lawyers and litigants to engage in these video hearings.  For each appearance, there will be a courtroom clerk, court reporter and interpreter (if necessary) on the video call.  Because of the relatively limited space for video hearings, the days are being apportioned between Judges and Commissioners to hear cases.  Notice for hearings will include a time slot for the hearing (i.e. 8:30 am to 10 am, 10-11 am, etc).  For the day, video hearings will be held 8:30 am to 12:00 pm and 1 pm to 4:30 pm.  Counsel and litigants are expected to be available during those allotted time slots.
The Court issued Temporary Emergency Orders 5.26, 5.27, 5.31, 5.46, 5.51, 5.66 last night (4/16/20). 

  • 5.26:  Provides a method for lawyers and litigants to obtain informal settlement conferences on all pending RFOs, long cause hearings and trials scheduled between March 17, 2020 and June 30, 2020.  The procedure for obtaining an informal settlement conference is provided in the rule.  These informal settlement conferences are not mandatory and will only occur by agreement of both parties.  The court will not issue orders or provide tentative rulings but will be available as a resource to help resolve disputes.
  • 5.27: Provides protocol for conducting “readiness calls” in restraining order requests being heard in Dept. 502.  Judge Rodriguez is hoping to resolve requests, determine where requests are no longer being made and provide information on how proof of service might be accomplished.
  • 5.31: Provides a procedure and protocol for having pending RFO’s decided on the pleadings including a process for filing additional pleadings (10 page max).  There is a separate form on the county’s court website: Local Form ALA-FL-EMER-060 which will need to be submitted indicating the parties wish to have the matter submitted on the pleadings.
  • 5.46:  Provides for a plan and protocol for ongoing Settlement Conferences in Dept. 504 which initially will be without clerk and court reporter support.
  • 5.51:  Provides limited information about ongoing efforts in Dept. 503 to conduct remote trials subject to clerk availability. Judge Chatterjee will issue his own pretrial orders which include protocols for submitted and sharing evidence.
  • 5.66:  Provides rules for electronic proof of service in all filed matters.

These Emergency Rules have been promulgated to achieve resolution of pending family law issues without the availability and use of our conventional tools such as court clerk minutes or court reporters.  It is likely that remote hearing use will increase substantially in the weeks ahead.  The Court continues to be appreciative of lawyers’ and litigants’ patience during this difficult time.

Judge Greg Syren