Riverside County Superior Court officials have announced a series of policy changes to scale back operations amid the coronavirus pandemic, including a minimum 14-day postponement in all criminal jury trials not already in progress.
“The court recognizes the balance that must be maintained between public health and safety and the constitutional rights of our citizens,” according to a court statement issued Tuesday. “The court has been strongly encouraged to take affirmative action to reduce the number of individuals gathering at the same time in one place.”
The court implemented an order, retroactive to Monday, modifying a number of practices meant to reduce the number of people gathering indoors to promote so-called social distancing. The foremost action is a halt to jury trials, except those in which jurors have been seated.
According to officials, the two-week postponements will be re-evaluated at the start of April. Meanwhile, trials already underway will be scrutinized to determine if they should be stopped, officials said.
Civil jury trials are suspended until May 25, but those cases already before jurors will be examined individually, like criminal cases, according to the court.
Arraignments and gun violence restraining orders will proceed, as will civil harassment restraining orders and name change petitions.
The same applies to temporary guardianship and conservatorship cases, along with elder abuse and domestic violence restraining orders and some ex-parte applications.
Detention hearings, contested and uncontested jurisdiction hearings and foster care petitions in juvenile court will be conducted.
All traffic court trials are included in the 14-day postponement, while other traffic hearings are being deferred for 30 days, according to the Superior Court.
Small claims matters will not be heard for 90 days, and unlawful detainer petitions, involving evictions, will not proceed for 60 days, officials said.
“These actions are not in response to a specific notice of exposure at any court facility; rather, they are being taken to exercise the precautions necessary to maintain the safety and well being of those who visit the courthouse,” according to the court.
Some hearings may be held telephonically, and interested parties who require more information were encouraged to visit www.riverside.courts.ca.gov, or call the court at 951-275-5076, or 760-342-6264.
The District Attorney’s Office is supporting the changes, and in response, the agency is reducing staff at the headquarters building on Orange Street in downtown Riverside, as well as offices in Indio, Murrieta, Banning and Blythe.
Some employees will be allowed to work from home, while the minimum number needed to meet court needs will be on hand, according to the agency.
Offices will additionally only be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. However, the D.A.’s Victims Services Unit will remain in on-call mode and available for dispatch where needed, and the Bureau of Investigation will remain fully active for the duration of modified operations, according to officials.
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