Court closures extended additional two weeks countywide

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Eight Riverside County courthouses will remain closed to the public — and those facilities that are still open will continue operating under limitations — for another two weeks due to the coronavirus emergency, it was announced today.

Presiding Judge John Vineyard signed a directive keeping the closures in effect until May 29. They had been set to expire Friday.

According to a court statement that reiterated verbatim a prior one, the two-week extension stems from “an effort to comply with federal, state and local guidelines” for COVID-19 mitigation.

Court Executive Office spokeswoman Marita Ford told City News Service last month that the rolling two-week closure orders were “due to the fact that government and other state court orders change, restrictions change, and we want to be able to reassess our situation frequently, but with enough time in between to ensure we are making sound decisions.”

Eight adult courts were shut down in mid-March, and the Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court on Farm Road was closed on April 13, as part of the court’s participation in COVID-19 containment measures. The juvenile court was re-opened before the end of April after all courthouse staff tested negative for the virus.

Vineyard is responsible for all closure orders, but Ford pointed out that he’s consulting judges in every region of the county to gather consensus.

Under an order originally issued March 16, most operations — and all public access — at the Banning Justice Center, Corona Courthouse, Riverside Historic Courthouse, Hemet Courthouse, Moreno Valley Traffic & Smalls Claims Court, Palm Springs Courthouse, Riverside Family Law Courthouse and Temecula Courthouse were suspended.

The downtown Riverside Hall of Justice remains 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.

Video arraignments, which began March 31, will continue to be utilized to preclude moving defendants from jailhouses to the open courthouses, and hence increasing COVID-19 exposure risks, officials said.

The Superior Court’s web portal remains available, though the timely updating of information on cases has been impacted.

Last month, the Superior Court implemented a series of policy changes that remain in force, all of which are designed to safeguard against coronavirus.

The foremost action was to halt criminal jury trials, which have been suspended until further notice. Civil jury trials are suspended until early August, at the earliest.

Arraignments and gun violence restraining orders are proceeding, as are civil harassment restraining orders and name change petitions.

All traffic court trials have been postponed until further notice, while other traffic hearings, as well as small claims matters, are deferred for 90 days from March 17.

Some hearings may be held telephonically, and interested parties who require more information are encouraged to visit www.riverside.courts.ca.gov, or call the court at 951-777-3147.