Starting Friday, eight Riverside County courthouses will be closed for two weeks and the remaining six will be open to the public for limited periods each day as the Superior Court scales back operations amid coronavirus concerns.
“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 public health and safety,” according to a court statement.
Presiding Judge John Vineyard directed that the Banning Justice Center, Riverside Historic Courthouse, Hemet Courthouse, Moreno Valley Traffic and Smalls Claims Court, Palm Springs Courthouse, Riverside Family Law Courthouse and Temecula Courthouse be shuttered from Friday to April 3.
Meantime, the downtown Riverside Hall of Justice, where the majority of criminal matters are disposed, will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., along with the Indio Larson Justice Center, Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, Blythe Courthouse, Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court and Southwest Juvenile Court.
All of the courts will be closed Tuesday, March 31, in observance of the state-recognized Cesar Chavez Day holiday.
The Superior Court’s web portal will remain available, though the timely updating of information on cases was expected to be impacted.
Earlier this week, the Superior Court implemented a series of policy changes that remain in force, all of which, officials said, are based on the need to reduce coronavirus exposure risks.
The foremost action is a halt to jury trials, except those in which jurors have been seated. 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 postponed until at least April 3, while other traffic hearings are being deferred for 90 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.
Some hearings may be held telephonically, and interested parties who require more information were encouraged to go to 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 has reduced staff at the headquarters building on Orange Street in downtown Riverside, as well as offices in Indio, Murrieta, Banning and Blythe.
Some employees are being allowed to work from home, while the minimum number needed to meet court needs are 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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