Audio streaming of proceedings at multiple Riverside County courthouses was initiated Monday as the Superior Court grapples with ways to facilitate public access amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Superior Court Executive Office spokeswoman Marita Ford said the streaming option was established “to balance the right to view public court proceedings with the overall health and safety of the public, court participants, judicial officers and court employees.”
Courtrooms hearing criminal matters — with the exception of the Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court — are included in the audio streaming program. Civil and family law courts are not yet incorporated, but will be added over the next few weeks, according to Ford.
She said the Superior Court is utilizing a WebEx platform via a secure IBM server for streams. They can be accessed via the court’s main portal — www.riverside.courts.ca.gov/ — under the “Online Services” tab.
As of 11 Monday morning, no streams were available. It was unclear whether judges have to explicitly authorize clerks to begin each audio feed, or they’re automatic.
The Superior Court has also implemented mandatory social distancing and usage of facial coverings in most court facilities.
Four courthouses that were shuttered over three months ago remain closed but are slated to reopen to the public a week from Monday.
Presiding Judge John Vineyard decided to leave the Corona, Hemet and Temecula courthouses and the Moreno Valley Traffic & Small Claims Court closed until various health safeguards are in place.
Earlier this month, Vineyard ordered the reopening of the Palm Springs Courthouse, Riverside Family Law Court and Riverside Historic Courthouse.
The facilities were shut down in mid-March, and the Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court was closed on April 13, as part of the court’s participation in COVID-19 containment. The juvenile court was re-opened before the end of April after all staff tested negative for the virus.
Under an order originally issued March 16, most operations — and all public access — at the courthouses were suspended.
However, since that time, the downtown Riverside Hall of Justice has remained open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., along with the Indio Larson Justice Center, the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta and the Blythe Courthouse.
In March, the Superior Court implemented a series of policy changes that remain in force, all of which, officials said, are based on the need to safeguard against coronavirus.
The foremost action was to halt criminal jury trials, which are returning to the docket for scheduling this week. Civil jury trials are suspended until at least the first half of August.