Covid-19 and Court Closures
State courts across California are implementing a variety of measures to curtail public activity in many instances, and in others to shut down completely.
The California Supreme Court on Monday suspended in-person oral arguments until ”deemed prudent to resume normal measures.” Counsel will appear by video or telephone. All oral argument sessions will be held in San Francisco. The sessions will be open to the public but seating will be limited. Until the suspension order was issued, the court was scheduled to be in session the week of April 6 in Los Angeles.
Here’s a look at how courts across the state are grappling with the threat of the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday morning. Courts are expected to announce more changes throughout the day.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has issued 12 emergency orders for courts so far.
Orange County Superior Court: “The Court will suspend all unlimited civil jury trials until May 1, 2020. The court will reduce the numbers of summoned jurors in criminal trials and will stagger the times the jurors are ordered to appear. The court is working closely with the District Attorney, the Public Defender, and other stakeholders to postpone cases within the confines of the law,” the court said. Additionally: “The Court mandated that all civil appearances before the court be conducted via audio-video call-in software system CourtCall until May 1, 2020. Personal appearances in the Court will be permitted only in hearings or trials where witnesses are expected to testify.”
Los Angeles County Superior Court: Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile announced Monday night that starting Tuesday, every court and courtroom will close to the public for three days. The court will re-open March 20 to hear “essential and emergency” matters.
Alameda County Superior Court: The court on Monday asked Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye for an emergency order to close all courthouse locations between March 17 and April 7 to comply with the Bay Area’s six-county shelter-in-place protocol. If the order is granted, the closure days will be treated as court holidays for the purpose of statutory time calculations.
Alpine County Superior Court: The court has not posted any information about changes.
Amador County Superior Court: Infraction appearances have been postponed.
Butte County Superior Court: Telephone appearances are encouraged. The court is also continuing some matters to limit the number of people coming into the courtroom.
Calaveras County Superior Court: Parties encouraged to use online services.
Colusa County Superior Court: “The Court at this time is operating under normal hours and operations,” the court said in a statement Monday
Contra Costa County Superior Court: Court will be closed for most cases between Monday and April 1. Jurors ordered to appear Monday must appear at courthouses for further guidance. In-custody arraignments will occur but will be closed to the public.
Del Norte County Superior Court: No operations changes noted.
Fresno County Superior Court: The court is preparing to scale back operations and will release more information on March 17.
Glenn County Superior Court: The court said it is open as normal with operations continuing without interruption at this time.
Humboldt County Superior Court: The court expects to be closed March 17 to March 20, pending an order from Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. The court plans to offer only limited operations through mid-April.
Imperial County Superior Court: The court announced Monday that it is increasing video arraignments and continuing trial dates.
Inyo County Superior Court: No changes noted on website.
Kern County Superior Court: “Self-represented litigants and attorneys are encouraged to seek continuances of non-essential court proceedings. Local Rule 1.1.1 regardingTelephonic Appearances is modified to permit more liberal use of telephonic appearances within the judicial officer’s discretion,” according to a March 13 court order signed by Presiding Judge Judith Dulcich.
Kings County Superior Court: Near-normal court operations continue.
Lake County Superior Court: At this time, there are no changes to court calendars, the court said March 13. The court has asked the chief justice for an emergency relief order, a Judicial Council spokesman said Monday.
Lassen County Superior Court: No reported changes in court operations.
Madera County Superior Court: Near-normal operations continue, the court said.
Marin County Superior Court: The court will close for all non-essential matters between March 17 and April 7. One criminal arraignment courtroom, one family and civil law courtroom and one juvenile and delinquency and dependency courtroom will remain open to handle piercing matters.
Mariposa County Superior Court: No operations changes noted.
Mendocino County Superior Court: An order signed by Presiding Judge Ann Moorman on Monday will limit public access to courthouses in Ukiah and Fort Bragg. Some criminal and civil matters are being postponed.
Merced County Superior Court: Effective March 17 through April 28, civil jury trials, time-waived misdemeanor jury trials, and time-waived felony out-of-custody jury trials will be continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks. “The Court will only summon jurors to a courthouse for “essential” trials as required by law. In those circumstances, jury panel sizes will be reduced, and trial calls will be staggered to reduce group sizes.”
Modoc County Superior Court: No operations changes noted.
Mono County Superior Court: No operations changes noted.
Monterey County Superior Court: Near-normal operations continue, the court said.
Napa County Superior Court: “At this time, there are no changes to normal court operations,” the court said. Court executive officer Bob Fleshman said Monday afternoon that court leaders are reviewing options and expect to make a decision on next steps soon.
Nevada County Superior Court: “All Civil and Criminal jury trials scheduled to commence between March 17, 2020 and April 14, 2020 are VACATED, excepting only those criminal trials in which time has not been waived. Counsel and non-represented parties for all vacated trials remain obligated to appear at any scheduled Trial Readiness Conference,” the court said in a March 13 order signed by Presiding Judge Linda Sloven.
Placer County Superior Court: The court issued new guidance Monday afternoon: “The Historic Courthouse in Auburn is closed effective March 17 with a plan to reopen April 13, 2020. The Court is contacting parties who were scheduled to appear at this location during the above timeframe. All civil jury trials currently set between Monday, March 16, and Friday, April 10, 2020, will be postponed.”
“All criminal jury trials currently set between Monday, March 16, and Friday, March 20, 2020, have been postponed. The Court is seeking an emergency order to postpone all criminal jury trials through April 10, 2020.”
“Parties in family law and civil cases are encouraged to appear by telephone for most matters.”
Plumas County Superior Court: No notice of changed operations.
Riverside County Superior Court: Near-normal court operations, the court said in a statement.
Sacramento County Superior Court: Starting March 17, all “non-essential” criminal matters will be continued from 30 days to 45 days, the court said in a statement issued Monday evening. Expungement hearings scheduled through May 1 will be postponed. All mandatory settlement conferences are canceled. Attorneys and parties with cases in civil law and motion, civil writs and complex civil case departments must appear by telephone.
San Benito County Superior Court: No notice of changed operations.
San Bernardino County Superior Court: Most San Bernardino County courthouses will close between March 17 and April 2, the court announced Monday afternoon. Courthouses in Victorville, Joshua Tree, and San Bernardino will be open for limited emergency matters only.
San Diego County Superior Court: The court has suspended all non-emergency services between March 17 and April 3, according to a release issued Monday afternoon.
San Francisco Superior Court: The court will close approximately 75 percent of its courtrooms and clerk’s offices between March 17 and April 15, according to a statement released Monday afternoon. Criminal jury trials set during that time will be continued on a rolling basis for 30 days from the currently scheduled trial date. Traffic matters will be continued for 30 days. Civil trials will be continued on a rolling basis for 90 days from the currently scheduled trial date.”Domestic violence restraining orders (DVRO) where visitation or custody is an issue will continue to be heard on Wednesday mornings at 8:30 a.m. in Department 403.”
San Joaquin County Superior Court: The court has suspended all non-emergency services through April 3.
San Luis Obispo County Superior Court: Court users are asked to consider alternatives to coming to the courthouse, but operations continue, the court said. The court has asked the chief justice for emergency relief, a Judicial Council spokesman said Monday.
San Mateo County Superior Court: Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has issued an emergency order allowing the court to suspend trials for up to 30 days and extend the time limits to conduct preliminary hearings from 10 court days to 15 court days. Trials and traffic matters will be suspended.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court: Presiding Judge Michael Carrozzo has signed an order continuing most matters to a date after April 3. “Most courtrooms in Santa Barbara County Superior Court will be closed. Only the criminal arraignment (hearing only in-custody matters) and juvenile courtrooms in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara will remain open. Jurors currently serving on jury duty should report to court to receive direction from the judge presiding over that trial. The clerk’s offices will remain open.”
Santa Clara County Superior Court: Starting March 17, the court will suspend all “non-essential” functions for three weeks, the court announced Monday night. Sixteen courtrooms will remain in use in four San Jose courthouses to handle pressing matters.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court: The court announced Tuesday that it is working to curtail non-mandated services. “The Court has already excused jurors ordered to report this week and is working on a plan to delay all other jury trials for the next several weeks. All traffic violation matters that were previously scheduled have also been postponed several weeks.” The court will announce plans for other postponements soon.
Shasta County Superior Court: “To serve the public and the community, the Court is operating under normal hours and operations, with some adjustments in the Self-Help hours,” the court said in a March 12 court statement.
Sierra County Superior Court: “Currently there are no changes to normal court operations within the court,” the court said in a March 13 court announcement.
Siskiyou County Superior Court: No changes to court operations posted.
Solano County Superior Court: The court said Tuesday it is seeking an emergency relief order from the chief justice, effective March 17 to April 3, to reset and continue almost all matters before the court. All clerk’s offices are closed to the public.
Sonoma County Superior Court: In a Sunday email to Sonoma County Bar Association members, Presiding Judge Bradford DeMeo said the courthouse will be closed except for critical functions through April 3.
“The only departments open this week for critical calendars will be Departments 1, 2 and 9 at the Hall of Justice (HOJ) and one juvenile courtroom at the Juvenile Justice Center. The Civil and Family Courthouse and Empire Annex will be closed to the public. We will be operating the three courtrooms at the HOJ for in-custody matters and matters where time is not waived, both felonies and misdemeanors,” DeMeo wrote.
“On the civil side we will also have critical calendar function such as family law domestic violence ex parte review, civil harassment ex parte review, foreclosure injunction review, and unlawful detainer ex parte review. All other civil and family law matters will be continued for 60 days.” See also: court statement.
Stanislaus County Superior Court: Near-normal court operations continue.
Sutter County Superior Court: No changes to court operations posted.
Tehama County Superior Court: “To serve the public and community, the Court at this time is operating under normal hours and operations,” the court said in a March 12 statement.
Trinity County Superior Court: The court is reducing jury panel sizes, staggering juror check-in and asking visitors to keep at least three empty seats between them.
Tulare County Superior Court: The court has asked Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye for an order to continue all civil trials set between March 17 and April 17; to temporarily close service counters; and to reduce juror summons to “essential” trials.
Tuolumne County Superior Court: No changes to court operations posted.
Ventura County Superior Court: The court will be closed from March 16 through March 18. Jury services are closed through March 20. Jury services are closed through March 20. “The court closure days are judicial holidays for purposes of filing deadlines and other time calculations. Beginning Thursday, March 19, the court will resume limited operations. The majority of courtrooms and all clerk’s offices at all court locations will remain closed. A small number of courtrooms will be open to hear urgent criminal, juvenile, unlawful detainer and temporary restraining order issues only. This will continue through Friday, March 20. At that time, the court will announce whether limited operations will continue based upon guidance provided by public health agencies.”
Yolo County Superior Court: The court has asked jurors with summons not to report. Interior service windows are closed. The court will continue all civil and criminal jury trials until May 4, except for those with no time waived, domestic violence, and other priority cases. Civil and criminal nonpriority jury trials will be continued until May 4. All judges will encourage social distancing within their courtrooms, avoiding situations where contagion could happen such as the use of microphones.
Yuba County Superior Court: Criminal hearings in Department 5 on set for Monday have been rescheduled due to the coronavirus.
California Courts of Appeal: The Second District and Fifth District courts of appeal in Los Angeles suspended all in-person oral arguments. Counsel must now appear by video or telephone. Operations at the remaining courts of appeal have not changed.