Justice system impacted as courts delay non-essential cases

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The Latest on impacted courts (March 19):

The Superior Court of California issued a statement saying “all criminal and civil matters not expressly excepted are suspended until further order of the Court.” The order will remain active from March 20 until March 30, including court holidays. You can read which emergency services remain available below.

Story continues below:


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The criminal justice system has slowed to a crawl as non-essential court proceedings have been canceled or delayed. Counties are setting their own procedures so not all courts are being impacted in the same way.

One look at the jury parking lot at the Sacramento County Courthouse and you know it’s not business as usual. The public can’t enter the court, access records or file civil cases, and a sign tells witnesses in court cases to stay away and check if you are really needed.

“It’s a significant impact,” said criminal defense attorney Ken Rosenfeld. “Cases that are considered non-essential being continued for months right now.”

Arraignments for those charged with crimes are still being heard but may be delayed up to seven days with the standard rule being 48 hours.

Preliminary hearings and other court deadlines are also being delayed as are civil trials, traffic and small claims cases. And it could still get worse.

“In the middle of a jury trial, the defense didn’t even had a chance to tell our case and judge sent the jury home for five weeks,” said Rosenfeld.

Despite the near shutdown of the court system, there are some cases it says simply cannot be delayed. Those cases include restraining orders involving domestic violence and gun possession. Child safety and juvenile detention determinations and the suspension of driver’s licenses are also some cases they won’t be delaying.

Jail inmates are also being released early. The same inmates normally go to the courthouse by the hundreds for cases which could expose staff to COVID-19. And normally, 600 jurors a day crowd the courtrooms and hallways. So, if you have a jury summons it’s important to keep checking to see if you must show up.

And if you have COVID-19 symptoms, Rosenfeld advises that you should not show up for your summons.

“Don’t go,” said Rosenfeld. “Call your doctor and get a note and make sure that you stay protected and stay safe.”

While most court workers may be protected from financial harm, local restaurants, legal support businesses and attorneys will feel the effects of fewer cases being heard.

“Attorneys are going to be suffering too, but the most important thing is safety at this point. The work will always come back,” said Rosenfeld.


The following emergency services remain available during this period:

a. Ex parte requests for civil harassment temporary restraining orders, domestic violence restraining orders, gun violence restraining orders, and emergency ex parte lockout proceedings in unlawful detainer matters

b. Emergency Petitions for Temporary Conservatorship

c. Emergency Petitions for Temporary Guardianship

d. Search Warrants, Emergency Protective Orders, and bail setting

e Juvenile Temporary Restraining orders and other Emergency Juvenile Orders

f. Family Emergency Temporary Restraining Orders

g. Emergency writs regarding COVID-19 emergency measures h. Emergency Writs of Habeas Corpus regarding medical quarantines

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