CEQA Deadlines: COVID-19’s Latest Victim

Client Alert

Judicial Council Extends Civil Statutes of Limitation

The Judicial Council of California has adopted emergency regulations giving would-be plaintiffs and petitioners significantly more time to file civil lawsuits, including those challenging public agency certifications and approvals made pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Opponents wishing to challenge project approvals under CEQA are required to file litigation within 30 days after the approving agency files a Notice of Determination. This very short statute of limitations was one of the assurances developers could rely upon in being able to proceed with project implementation. For now, the 30-day statute of limitations is in temporary quarantine. On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council action approved 11 temporary emergency rules addressing a wide range of issues, from staying eviction and foreclosure proceedings to setting a $0 bail statewide for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies. Emergency Rule 9 tolls the statutes of limitation for all civil causes of action until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is lifted.

In the land use and CEQA context, this is a significant extension, given that statutes of limitation for CEQA lawsuits are particularly short: Lawsuits challenging certification of an environmental impact report or approval of a negative declaration typically must be filed within 30 days.

Statutes of limitation for CEQA and land use claims can be complicated to calculate, and the emergency regulations will now add new uncertainties for land developers and public agencies. Given that there is no announced date when the Governor’s order will be lifted, it will be impossible to calculate when a project would be safe from CEQA litigation.

If you have questions regarding how the Judicial Council emergency regulations may affect your land development project, please reach out to Susan Hori or your relationship partner.

Text of Emergency Regulations

Text of Judicial Council Press Release

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