Valley courts changing operations due to coronavirus

Superior Courts in the San Joaquin Valley are taking action to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order which mandates compliance with the recommendations of state and local public health officials.

The California Department of Public Health recommends nonessential gatherings of 250 people or more be postponed or canceled, smaller events should proceed only if social distancing of six feet can be provided and gatherings of high-risk populations should be limited to no more than 10 people.

Here is how the Valley courts are scaling down operations to comply with the Department of Public Health’s recommendations:

Fresno County Superior Court

The court announced on Tuesday that it has requested an emergency order from California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to substantially reduce operations. Shortly thereafter, Cantil-Sakuye granted the order.

“If granted, there will be no more than 7 courtrooms in operation among the 4 courthouse locations,” said the court in a statement. “The Court will handle only essential legal matters during this time.”

All cases, with the exception of temporary restraining orders for civil or family law cases, issuances of search warrants, arraignments, criminal preliminary hearings, and a short list of other key proceedings, are being furloughed through April 3.

Cases occurring between March 18 and April 3 will be rescheduled, as those dates are considered court holidays.

Anyone who has business before the court is advised to visit the court’s website for specific details.

Madera County Superior Court

On Monday, the court announced that it is continuing operations at a normal pace, for the most part.

Most trials, including civil cases, felony jury trials, misdemeanor jury trials and traffic trials scheduled between March 17 and April 3 will continue on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

The court will continue to summon jurors as needed, but the jury panel sizes will be reduced.

Merced County Superior Court

Civil jury trials, misdemeanor jury trials and felony out-of-custody jury trials set between March 17 and April 28 will continue on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

Traffic hearings and time-waived traffic trials set between March 23 and April 28 will continue on a rolling basis for 60 days from the currently scheduled date.

All traffic walk-in appearances will be suspended starting Tuesday through April 28. The self-help center is closed, and in person interviews are suspended.

Kings County Superior Court

Kings County Superior Court announced Tuesday it would continue all criminal trials with or without time waivers, civil trials, and traffic hearings will be for 30 days on a rolling basis.

Tulare County Superior Court

On Monday, the court filed a request with Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye to continue all civil trials set between March 17 and April 17 and to close all service counters until April 17.

Jurors will be summoned for only “essential” trials as required by law, and jury panel sizes will be reduced.

All walk-in appearances are suspended until April 17, and all other trials scheduled over the next month will continue.

Kern County Superior Court

Presiding Judge Judith Dulcich signed a court order on March 13 telling court employees, parties, witnesses, attorneys and jurors who are ill should not come to the court.

Dulcich ordered self-represented litigants and attorneys to seek postponements of non-essential court proceedings, and she ordered the local rule regarding telephonic appearances to be modified to allow for a more liberal use of telephonic appearances within the judicial officer’s discretion.”

In an effort to limit public interaction, the court announced Tuesday that it will only hear 10 case types from March 19 to March 30. All others will be rescheduled.

The 10 cases types the court will hear are felony and misdemeanor criminal arraignments, felony preliminary hearings, felony sentencings, juvenile initial hearings for dependency and juvenile justice, family domestic violence temporary restraining orders, family law ex parte hearings, probate applications for temporary guardianship, probate applications for temporary conservatorship, civil harassment and civil ex parte requests.

Stanislaus County Superior Court

The Stanislaus County court is running as usual and has not announced any changes as of Tuesday.

On March 13, the court released a statement encouraging visitors to wash their hands and follow the guidelines of public health officials and emphasized that people who are feeling ill should not report to jury service.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.