The Superior Court of Santa Clara County will temporarily close public windows and limit public access inside courthouses due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections and its impact on staffing, a the court announced on Wednesday.
Presiding Judge Theodore C. Zayner issued an order, which is expected to be in effect until Jan. 31.
“Our court is experiencing a significant number of staff absences, which is creating staffing shortages across all departments of the court. We hope these circumstances are transitional and will review the terms frequently as we continue to serve the public during the pandemic and the current omicron variant surge,” Zayner said in the statement.
“I would like to strongly emphasize that these measures have become necessary due to the reduction in staffing, and not because of a lack of security, health or hygiene conditions in the courthouses themselves. We appreciate your patience during this challenging time during which we anticipate temporary limitations when accessing the courthouse in person.”
Access to the courthouse is now limited to those appearing in person for a hearing, which generally includes parties, their attorneys, subpoenaed witnesses and jurors. Anyone who shows up to file a pleading in person can only come in to drop the document in the drop box and then must exit.
Anyone seeking help with the following will be permitted to enter the Family Justice Center courthouse in San Jose and access the Self-Help Center/Restraint Orders Help Center:
• Advocacy related to the prevention of domestic violence, gun violence, civil harassment, elder or dependent abuse, workplace violence, school violence, and juvenile dependency restraining orders.
• Legal proceedings seeking emergency custody and visitation orders or child safety concerns.
• Acts requesting emergency guardianship.
• Pleadings related to evictions, limited to emergencies.
No one else is permitted entry without cause, including access to the clerk’s offices and public restrooms.
The court will continue to process documents filed electronically. People who do not e-file will be allowed into the courthouse to use the drop box.
Court proceedings are accessible by telephone or remotely. Information can be found at scscourt.org.
The court also took additional sanitation measures, including increased efforts to clean and disinfect high-traffic areas; mandate the use of double-ply face coverings in the courthouse; stagger the start times of hearing schedules; reduce the number of cases on each calendar; using remote appearance technology in courtrooms; install plexiglass in open courtrooms; and providing hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes throughout the courthouse and in courtrooms.
The court will postpone and reschedule hearing dates, if necessary, to accommodate people who are ill due to COVID-19. The Palo Alto Courthouse remains closed and plans to reopen in May.