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Palo Alto courthouse will stay open after sheriff drops plan to shutter facility

Agreement would also retain Morgan Hill courthouse

Superior Court Palo Alto Courthouse photographed March 23, 2020. Photo by Sammy Dallal

A proposal by Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith to close the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses due to staffing shortages has been rescinded after reaching an agreement with court administrators and county Executive's Office, the Sheriff's Office has announced.

Smith sent a memorandum to the court administration on May 27 stating plans to address staff shortages by consolidating resources from the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses and temporarily closing those locations. Both courthouses had been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and Palo Alto's courthouse at 270 Grant Ave. only reopened on May 2. Closing the courthouses would have made only the Hall of Justice in San Jose available for criminal proceedings.

The Sheriff's Office provides security at all county courthouses, including within each courtroom. Smith said that a hiring freeze and the departure of many deputies to other, more lucrative agencies have reduced the number of personnel.

The announcement was met by an outcry from the court administration, particularly since Smith's announcement came just prior to the Memorial Day weekend. The shutdown would have started this Monday, June 13.

Presiding Judge Theodore Zayner pushed back on the planned closures in a June 1 memo.

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"It is disappointing and surprising to hear on such short notice of your apparent determination to discontinue deputy staffing for the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses, when the court has not increased the number of operating courtrooms while we attempt to serve the North County and South County communities," he wrote.

Both locations serve residents in the northern and southern sections of the county. The closures would place a hardship on those residents, especially the elderly and disabled and those without motor vehicle transportation, to access court services and to make appearances for hearings, court staff have said.

On Wednesday, June 8, representatives from the sheriff's administrative office, the county Executive's Office and the court administration met to discuss ways to keep the two courthouses open.

"All organizations involved are happy to report that the collaborative meeting paved the way to keep the Palo Alto and South County courthouses open. The Sheriff’s Office, County Executive's Office, and Court Administration will continue to work together to best serve the residents of Santa Clara County," the sheriff's office statement said.

In a separate internal court administration memo, administrators noted that keeping the courts open will come with a price. Operations will need to be adjusted elsewhere; where and to what extent is still to be determined.

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Sue Dremann
 
Sue Dremann is a veteran journalist who joined the Palo Alto Weekly in 2001. She is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who also covers the regional environmental, health and crime beats. Read more >>

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Palo Alto courthouse will stay open after sheriff drops plan to shutter facility

Agreement would also retain Morgan Hill courthouse

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jun 10, 2022, 12:09 pm

A proposal by Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith to close the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses due to staffing shortages has been rescinded after reaching an agreement with court administrators and county Executive's Office, the Sheriff's Office has announced.

Smith sent a memorandum to the court administration on May 27 stating plans to address staff shortages by consolidating resources from the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses and temporarily closing those locations. Both courthouses had been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and Palo Alto's courthouse at 270 Grant Ave. only reopened on May 2. Closing the courthouses would have made only the Hall of Justice in San Jose available for criminal proceedings.

The Sheriff's Office provides security at all county courthouses, including within each courtroom. Smith said that a hiring freeze and the departure of many deputies to other, more lucrative agencies have reduced the number of personnel.

The announcement was met by an outcry from the court administration, particularly since Smith's announcement came just prior to the Memorial Day weekend. The shutdown would have started this Monday, June 13.

Presiding Judge Theodore Zayner pushed back on the planned closures in a June 1 memo.

"It is disappointing and surprising to hear on such short notice of your apparent determination to discontinue deputy staffing for the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses, when the court has not increased the number of operating courtrooms while we attempt to serve the North County and South County communities," he wrote.

Both locations serve residents in the northern and southern sections of the county. The closures would place a hardship on those residents, especially the elderly and disabled and those without motor vehicle transportation, to access court services and to make appearances for hearings, court staff have said.

On Wednesday, June 8, representatives from the sheriff's administrative office, the county Executive's Office and the court administration met to discuss ways to keep the two courthouses open.

"All organizations involved are happy to report that the collaborative meeting paved the way to keep the Palo Alto and South County courthouses open. The Sheriff’s Office, County Executive's Office, and Court Administration will continue to work together to best serve the residents of Santa Clara County," the sheriff's office statement said.

In a separate internal court administration memo, administrators noted that keeping the courts open will come with a price. Operations will need to be adjusted elsewhere; where and to what extent is still to be determined.

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