The Santa Clara County Superior Court will temporarily close public counters and limit public access inside the courthouses due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections and its impact on staffing levels, the court announced on Wednesday.
Presiding Judge Theodore C. Zayner issued an order, which is scheduled to be in place until Jan. 31.
"Our court is experiencing a significant number of employee absences, creating staffing shortages across all departments of the court. We are hopeful that these circumstances are transitory and will frequently reexamine conditions as we continue to serve the public through the pandemic and the current omicron variant surge," Zayner said in the statement.
"I want to strongly emphasize that these measures have become necessary due to diminished staffing levels, and not for lack of safety, healthy or sanitary conditions within the courthouses themselves. We appreciate your patience through this challenging time during what we anticipate will include temporary limitations upon in-person courthouse access."
Courthouse access is now limited to individuals appearing in person for a court hearing, which generally includes parties, their attorneys, witnesses subpoenaed to testify and jurors. Anyone who is appearing to submit a formal pleading in person may enter only to place the document in the drop box and must leave afterward.
Anyone seeking assistance with the following will be permitted to enter the Family Justice Center Courthouse in San Jose and access the Self-Help Center/Restraining Order Help Center:
• Pleadings related to the prevention of domestic violence, gun violence, civil harassment, elder or dependent abuse, workplace violence, school violence and juvenile dependency restraining orders.
• Pleadings requesting emergency child custody and visitation orders or child safety issues.
• Pleadings requesting emergency guardianship.
• Pleadings related to evictions, restricted to emergencies.
No one else is permitted entry without good cause, including access to the clerk’s offices and public restrooms.
The court will continue to process electronically filed documents. People who are not e-filing will be allowed access to the courthouse to use the drop box.
Court proceedings can be accessed through phone or remote options. Information can be found at scscourt.org.
The court also has undertaken additional sanitation measures, including increased efforts to clean and sanitize high-traffic areas; mandating the use of double-layer face coverings in the courthouse; staggering the start times for hearing calendars; reducing the number of matters on each calendar; utilizing remote appearance technology in courtrooms; installing Plexiglas in open courtrooms; and providing hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes throughout the courthouse and in courtrooms.
The court will postpone and reschedule court dates, as necessary, to accommodate people who are ill due to COVID-19. The Palo Alto Courthouse remains closed, with plans to reopen in May.