As part of the California Judicial Council’s April 6th response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Judicial Council adopted Emergency Rule 9 which tolled statutes of limitations for civil causes of action from April 6th until 90 days after the Governor declares an end to the state of emergency.
While most civil claims must be brought within a period of years, land use practitioners were quick to point out that this Emergency Rule effectively added an additional three times the statute of limitations to CEQA claims (ordinarily 30 days with a notice of determination or 35 with a notice of exemption), and doubled the statute of limitations for most land use claims (90 days for most planning, zoning, and subdivision matters) – with the added time to come after the unknown end of the State’s declaration of emergency. Numerous letters to the Judicial Council emphasized that the intentionally short statutes of limitations for challenging government decisions were enacted by the Legislature to promote the finality of government decisions. The letters also noted the burden the Emergency Rule created on local governments and the development community who often don’t start development until the statute of limitations is passed.
The Judicial Council has responded: On May 29th, the Judicial Council announced the adoption of an amendment to Emergency Rule 9 that strikes the prior reliance on an end to the declaration of emergency and replaces it with tolling until a date certain – August 3rd for statutes of limitations of 180 days or less, and October 1st for statutes of limitations that exceed 180 days. For most CEQA and land use actions, this means that the statute of limitations for approvals that occurred during the shelter in place will begin to run on August 3rd.
The full text of the new Emergency Rule 9 is as follows:
Emergency rule 9. Tolling statutes of limitations for civil causes of action
(a) Tolling statutes of limitations over 180 days
Notwithstanding any other law, the statutes of limitations and repose for civil causes of action that exceed 180 days are tolled from April 6, 2020, until October 1, 2020.
(b) Tolling statutes of limitations of 180 days or less
Notwithstanding any other law, the statutes of limitations and repose for civil causes of action that are 180 days or less are tolled from April 6, 2020, until August 3, 2020.