A Judicial Council working group of 23 volunteer judges and court executives released a 75-page resource guide to help the state’s trial courts with their pandemic continuity of operations, while providing a safe environment for court users, staff, and justice partners.
Developed by the Pandemic Continuity of Operations Working Group, the guide addresses more than 200 questions and topics identified by the working group and contains a range of resources to address challenges related to facilities, personnel, jury management, case management and processing, and communications.
The guide includes information on items such as:
- Screening courthouse visitors
- Defining one-way walking paths with floor markings
- Using acrylic or glass screens between court staff and the public
- Onsite reservation systems to control queues and waiting
- Spacing jurors during voir dire and trials
The guide doesn’t contain rules or standards, but a range of considerations and approaches courts can draw from based on their particular situation, as well as local health and safety regulations.
“The guide will not be a one-time, static publication, but an evolving resource that improves over time as courts use it and provide their feedback, experience, and additional best practices,” said the council’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Oyung. “This is version 1.0, and we expect to keep updating it over the next several months.”
Additional Resources and Guidance to Local Courts
In addition to the resource guide, the council’s facility modification committee agreed to designate $5 million in statewide maintenance funds to reimburse courts for temporary safe distancing measures related to courthouse operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reimbursable, temporary measures include items such as new signage, reconfiguring physical space to ensure social distancing, and creating physical barriers between courthouse occupants.
The guide and facility modification funding are just two resources among a slate of emergency orders and rules approved by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye or the Judicial Council of California in recent weeks to ensure California courts—which have remained open as "essential services" under Governor Newsom's stay-at-home executive order—can meet stringent health directives while also providing due process and access to justice.
Restoration of court services are underway in counties across the state. Modifications remind users of social distancing practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Santa Clara County Superior Court)
Crews in San Bernardino County Superior Court mark high traffic areas to remind people in the courthouse to keep a social distance of at least 6 feet.
Consultation bays at Santa Clara's self-help center are also modified to assure safety for court users and staff.
Pexiglass partitians act as a barrier in spaces where person-to-person conversation is necessary, including this one in a Santa Clara County courtroom.
In Kern County, staff install pexiglass around the bench.
Signs like these in Napa County are posted in interior and exterior spaces, reminding visitors to avoid physical contact such as handshakes.