RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The decision on when to reopen nine Riverside County courthouses that have been closed as part of coronavirus mitigation efforts will depend on an overall change in conditions that make it safe to resume operations, a Superior Court official said today.
On Wednesday, county Presiding Judge John Vineyard directed that all of the shuttered courthouses remain closed to the public until at least May 1. The previous closure order had been scheduled to expire Friday.
“We are making the decision to extend closures in two-week increments,” Superior Court spokeswoman Marita Ford told City News Service.
“That is due to the fact that government and other state court orders change, restrictions change — social distancing, masks, exposure — 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 last month, and a juvenile courthouse was closed Monday, as part of the court’s participation in COVID-19 containment.
Ford told CNS the decision-making process attempts to “balance access to justice with the health and safety of the public, staff, judicial officers and other agencies that come into our courthouses.”
Vineyard is responsible for the closure orders, but Ford pointed out that he is in frequent consultation with judges in every region of the county, as well as Superior Court Executive Office staff, to gather consensus.
Under an order issued by VineyardMarch 16 and re-implemented on April 2, 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 Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court was closed April 13, and all youth court matters were reassigned to the Southwest Juvenile Court in Murrieta.
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, the Blythe Courthouse and Southwest Juvenile Court.
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, officials said, are based on the need to safeguard against coronavirus.
The foremost action was to halt jury trials, which have been suspected for 60 days, beginning March 17. Civil jury trials are suspended until May 25.
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 being deferred for 90 days.
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 951-777-3147.