State and Local Public Hearings Continue During COVID-19 Under Governor's Executive Order

March 2020

On March 17, 2020, Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-29-20, which temporarily amends key provisions of both the Brown Act and Bagley-Keene Act relating to public participation in public hearings in response to the COVID-19 crisis. This article discusses what this means to those clients with upcoming public hearings and how to adapt to these new hearing procedures.

To the extent that jurisdictions elect to proceed with public hearings, Executive Order N-29-20, which supersedes an earlier Order by the Governor, allows state and local jurisdictions to conduct public business and satisfy open meeting requirements by providing the public with telephonic or other electronic means of observing and addressing public hearings.

Early implementation of this Order by jurisdictions continuing to conduct public business has varied widely throughout the state. Some jurisdictions have implemented live call-in and web-based “eComment” features, while others have simply allowed the public to provide pre-hearing email comments or voicemails, which are subsequently transcribed and presented to the hearing body.

To the extent that clients have public hearing matters or issues that cannot otherwise be postponed, we have the following recommendations:

  • Provide all comments in writing in advance of the hearing to the clerk of the hearing body and, where possible, the individual members of the hearing body;
  • Given the varied and inconsistent implementation by individual jurisdictions, all written comments should include an express reservation of due process rights in the event the jurisdiction’s procedure is found to be procedurally erroneous;
  • Finally, to the extent possible, familiarize yourself with the jurisdiction’s video and live streaming systems in advance of any scheduled hearing. Many jurisdictions are still addressing technical issues, so familiarity with a jurisdiction’s video and live streaming systems can be critical in the event viewing or participation issues arise during a hearing.

We will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates as they become available.

To download a PDF of this article, please click here.

David Temblador is a Partner and James Anderson is an Associate at Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Guernsey LLP in Sacramento, California.

© 2011-2020 – Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Guernsey LLP. All rights reserved. The information in this article has been prepared by Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Guernsey LLP for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.