On March 9, the San Francisco Superior Court issued an order creating a strong presumption that pre-trial hearings in unlawful detainer actions will all be held remotely, including via video or telephone, and providing for in-person appearances only where judges determine they can be done safely. Bay Area Legal Aid and co-counsel had previously sent a demand letter to the San Francisco Superior Court asking that the court stop compelling in-person appearances for unlawful detainer defendants and their counsel and asking that the court provide full and equal access for persons making telephonic and other remote appearances.
Bay Area Legal Aid has been working throughout the pandemic to address court safety and access issues both in San Francisco housing courts and more broadly throughout our region and state. Given the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, it is both unsafe and unlawful to compel unlawful detainers defendants and their counsel to appear in person. We appreciate the Court’s willingness to adopt default remote proceedings for pre-trial unlawful detainer proceedings, and we continue to advocate for the courts to take additional steps to protect people’s safety and ensure full and equal access during the pandemic.