COVID-19 and the Courts

A statue of Themis wearing a face mask and gloves, in front of volumes of law books. Photo by 101cats / Getty Images


Thursday, October 1, 2020


8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT


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The RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) and the Berkeley Law Civil Justice Research Initiative (CJRI ) have assembled a distinguished group of attorneys, judges, and scholars to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the court system. How have the pandemic and social distancing practices affected the state and federal courts’ ability to adequately conduct civil jury trials? How have our adaptations to the crisis affected the amount of time needed to resolve litigated disputes? What impact could the pandemic have on federal and state court civil rules? How different will civil litigation look post pandemic? Join our experts including Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law), Paula Hannaford-Agor (Director of the Center for Juries Studies, National Center for State Courts), and Bridget Mary McCormack (Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan) to explore the rapidly changing legal environment.

This special event has been made possible by the generosity of the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment.

Learn more about our speakers


All times are Pacific Daylight Time

8:45 a.m.
Welcome and Introductions
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • James Anderson, Director, ICJ, RAND Corporation
  • Mary-Christine ("M.C.") Sungaila, Chair, ICJ Board of Advisors; Shareholder, Chair, Appellate Practice Group, Buchalter
9:00 a.m.
Panel: Implications for Civil Juries
What impact has the COVID-19 crisis had on the courts’ ability to conduct civil jury trials? This panel will discuss achieving an equitable jury pool, potential logistical and Constitutional issues, how virtual trials might impact jury outcomes, and how civil justice participants may be affected.
  • Moderator:
    Richard Jolly, Associate, Susman Godfrey LLP; Fellow, Berkeley Law CJRI
  • Panelists:
    Robert A. Clifford, Founder and Senior Partner, Clifford Law Offices
  • Arturo J. González, Partner, Morrison & Foerster LLP
  • Valerie Hans, Charles F. Rechlin Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  • Judge Carolyn Kuhl, Los Angeles County Superior Court
10:30 a.m.
10:45 a.m.
Panel: Implications for Pre-Trial Case Management
What changes to pre-trial case management have been made due to the pandemic? This panel will address discovery delays and disputes, negotiations and the settlement process, the impact of potential disparities among courts’ technology and facilities, and the degree to which litigants might begin to opt for alternatives in order to resolve disputes in a timely fashion.
  • Moderator:
    Judge Jeremy Fogel, Executive Director, Berkeley Judicial Institute
  • Panelists:
    Janet Abaray, Managing Shareholder, Ohio Office, BurgSimpson
  • Scott Dodson, James Edgar Hervey Chair in Litigation and Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of the Law
  • Charles Lifland, Partner, O’Melveny & Myers LLP
  • Judge Sandra Perlman, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida
12:15 p.m.
Lunch Break
1:15 p.m.
Panel: Implications for Federal and State Civil Rules
Will courts implement permanent changes to rules and procedures as a consequence of the pandemic’s disruption? This panel will discuss notable proposals in regard to federal and state court systems, consider its implications on the resolution of civil disputes if adopted, and suggest optimal strategies courts might implement.
  • Moderator:
    Jocelyn Larkin, Executive Director, Impact Fund
  • Panelists:
    Andrew Bradt, Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • Robert J. Giuffra, Jr., Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP (Member, Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure)
  • Richard Marcus, Distinguished Professor of Law and Horace O. Coil Chair in Litigation, UC Hastings College of the Law
  • Tara Sutton, Partner, Robins Kaplan LLP
2:45 p.m.
3:00 p.m.
Panel: Implications for Civil Litigation and the Courts in a Post-Pandemic World
Will court operations and dispute litigation be resolved in the same way prior to the crisis? This panel will speculate on the future of litigation after society has addressed the most pressing health and cultural consequences of COVID-19. How will delayed civil cases, filings and access to justice be addressed? Is this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make civil litigation faster, fairer, and less expensive?
  • Moderator:
    Nicholas M. Pace, Senior Social Scientist, RAND Corporation
  • Panelists:
    Paula Hannaford-Agor, Director, Center for Jury Studies, National Center for State Courts
  • Stephen J. Herman, Partner, Herman Herman & Katz, LLC
  • Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, Supreme Court of Michigan
  • Donna Melby, Partner, Litigation and Employment Law Departments, Paul Hastings LLP
4:30 p.m.
Concluding Remarks
  • Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law

MCLE Credit

This program has been approved for up to 4.5 hours of MCLE credit by the State Bar of California.

View MCLE materials

About the Institute for Civil Justice

For more than 40 years, the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) has made the civil justice system more efficient and equitable by supplying government, private decisionmakers, and the public with objective, empirically-based, analytic research. The ICJ conducts research on all aspects of civil justice, from trends in litigation and jury verdicts to punitive damages, compensation systems, and alternative dispute resolution. In recent years, we have expanded our agenda to include cybersecurity and emerging technologies.

About the Civil Justice Research Initiative

The Civil Justice Research Initiative (CJRI) is a think tank chaired by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School and Founding Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law. CJRI Berkeley is housed at Berkeley Law under the management of Executive Director, Anne Bloom. The organization’s Advisory Board, chaired by attorney Roman Silberfeld, Executive Board Member of Robins Kaplan LLP, includes prominent attorneys in private practice from around the United States as well as established legal scholars and researchers from prominent law schools around the country.

CJRI’s mission is to systematically identify and produce highly credible, unbiased research on critical issues concerning the civil justice system, including expanding access to justice. Research focuses on the growing limits on access to the court system, including inadequate funding of state and federal courts; increased use of compulsory arbitration clauses; restrictions on class-action lawsuits; and limits on punitive damages. The Initiative also examines potential remedies to help level the judicial playing field for litigants. These efforts ensure that leaders, legislators and courts have the factual research and data they need to set policy to ensure continued access to the courts.