Chief Judge Maureen Tighe has issued a new General Order detailing further restrictions on operations and activities at the U. S. Bankruptcy Court.
The new directive was accompanied by a letter from Judge Tighe which follows below:
“As you may have read in the Public Notice that went out on Friday, we have had to reduce any in-person proceedings at the Bankruptcy Court even further. As you could probably tell from how quickly one general order superseded another, we have been agonizing over how to best serve the public and still keep people safe. After consultation with Chief District Judge Gutierrez and Clerk of Court Kathy Campbell, I decided it was best to be consistent with the District Court decision to hold no in-person hearings that were not required by law.
“I know this will cause confusion for many of you with important evidentiary hearings and trials scheduled. I trust you and the assigned judge will be able to work out an alternative. We had hoped very limited in-person hearings and trials could be held with appropriate safeguards, but the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the district makes that too risky at this time. There is guidance on the website about how to use Zoomgov, and we will continue hearing cases with whatever remote modalities we can.
“Please call the courtroom deputy or chambers if you have any questions about something scheduled in a particular case. I expect it will take a few days to sort out this sudden change in circumstances for all scheduled matters. All hearings continue to be open to the public through either telephone or video. If instructions are not on the court calendar, simply call the courtroom deputy for the assigned judge.
“Although all represented parties can file and appear electronically, we are still concerned with access for self-represented parties, especially as economic conditions worsen. It was important for us to keep at least one intake area open for those who cannot file electronically.
“The Roybal Federal Courthouse will be set up to accept filings for the entire district. Appropriate safeguards are in place, and people will be allowed into the building for that limited purpose. Although Roybal is quite a drive for many, it is centrally located and set up to handle a volume of filings. We have posted extensive information about how self-represented debtors can file both initial petitions and later pleadings electronically.
“We hope to post an electronic learning module shortly explaining how to use eSR, our electronic self-represented bankruptcy filing program. If you know of anyone considering a bankruptcy filing, please encourage them to find counsel, and, if not, to consult the court website: https://www.cacb.uscourts.gov/filing-without-an-attorney.
“Ideally, we could find a way for every party to be represented. If you think of more ways we can get information out to help people use attorneys, please let us know. We are greatly indebted to our pro bono partners for the assistance they are providing and the ways they have figured out how to help indigent clients remotely. There are also links on the website for attorneys wishing to volunteer their services for any of these organizations.
“I encourage you to consider this if you have not already done so. Oddly, it is much easier to fit it in to a busy day because you can do it remotely. Even limited advice often can make a huge difference for some people. If a self-represented party is not able to file electronically, mail the pleadings, or come to Roybal, there is a help line available where we can make alternative arrangements – (855) 460-9641. Our staff has been handling every type of trouble-shooting since last March, and will get back to any message left on this line.”
We may be facing unprecedented bankruptcy filings. Anything you can do now to your improve electronic filing skills, get trained as a volunteer, or get ready for what may come will help us all weather this crisis better. I greatly appreciate your continued patience and understanding at this trying time.”