Riverside juvenile court to reopen Monday after coronavirus-related closure


RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The juvenile courthouse in Riverside will reopen on Monday after being closed for two weeks as a precautionary move to minimize potential coronavirus exposure risks, but other courthouses will remain shuttered, Riverside County Superior Court officials said today.

The Riverside Juvenile Dependency Court on County Farm Road was shut down on April 13, and all operations were shifted to Southwest Juvenile Court in Murrieta. Superior Court spokeswoman Marita Ford said there were concerns staff at the Riverside facility came come into contact with COVID-19 carriers, but all courthouse employees have since tested negative for the virus.

“In addition, the court has not had any other reported cases of exposure, or potential exposure, in that facility,” Ford said, prompting Presiding Judge John Vineyard to direct that it resume operations on April 27.

Meantime, the judge’s order impacting eight other courthouses is unchanged, and all will stay closed until at least May 1.

Ford told City News Service last week that the judge is extending the rolling closure orders in “two-week increments.”

“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,” she said.

The eight adult courts were shut down last month. Ford said Vineyard is in frequent consultation with judges in every region of the county, as well as Superior Court Executive Office staff, to gather consensus on possible resumption of operations.

Under an order issued by the judge on March 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 downtown Riverside Hall of Justice remains open weekdays 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 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.

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.

Parties who require more information were encouraged to visit www.riverside.courts.ca.gov, or call the court at 951-777-3147.