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COVID-19 Forcing Superior Court to Scale Back Operations

MADERA — On Monday (March 23), Fresno County shut down its courthouse to all but emergency operations. While the Madera County Superior Courthouse currently remains open, the facility is operating under dramatically scaled back guidelines prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week (March 15), the leadership of the Madera County Superior Court met in an emergency session to discuss the most effective and responsible actions necessary to protect the public health amid the rapidly evolving crisis. The leadership committee then made the following adjustments to court operations:

All civil trials, with the exception of unlawful detainer trials, currently scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled trial date.

All case management conferences and mandatory settlement conferences scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are also continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

One civil department will remain open to hear all unlawful detainer matters, requests for emergency ex parte temporary restraining orders, emergency ex parte probate matters and all statutorily mandated hearings.

All misdemeanor jury trials in which a time waiver has been entered and the defendant is out of custody, that are scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

All felony jury trials in which a time waiver has been entered and the defendant is out of custody, that are scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

All out-of-custody criminal arraignments that are scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

All specialty court reviews, including drug court, behavioral health court and veterans’ court that are scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

All hearings in the appellate department that are scheduled between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020, are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

All traffic trials in which a time waiver has been entered are continued on a rolling basis for eight weeks from the currently scheduled date.

Dates for payment of fines or appearance in court on traffic citations are continued 26 weeks from the date listed on the citation or the courtesy notice, whichever is later.

All payment plans for the payment of fines are extended 60 days before finding the payments delinquent and referring the matters to collections.

Judicial officers assigned to family law matters have the discretion to continue all non-emergency hearings on requests for orders and status conferences between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020.

There will be no day-of-court mediation service available beginning March 17, 2020.

Family Court Services will schedule telephonic mediation services whenever practicable between March 17, 2020 and April 3, 2020.

The self-help division is closed for walk-in appointments and all in-person self-help appointments are suspended beginning March 17, 2020. One self-help attorney and one self-help paralegal will be available for litigants who are directed to the self-help division by a judicial officer.
Each judicial officer retains discretion to deviate from the foregoing upon a finding of good cause and keeping in mind the purpose and intent of these measures.

Criminal matters in which no time waiver has been entered or the defendant is in custody, hearings on restraining orders, requests for emergency family law or probate matters and other matters not specifically provided for above will continue to be heard as court resources and public health directives permit with the following points and recommendations:

Attorneys and litigants are strongly encouraged to file documents by facsimile in civil, probate and family law matters — and also are strongly encouraged to make court appearances telephonically via Court Call in all case types.

Subject to the exercise of judicial discretion, the court will liberally grant hearing continuances upon request and will make best efforts to reduce calendar sizes to minimize health and safety risks.

The court will summon jurors as needed to comply with state and federal law. Jury panel sizes will be reduced.

The court will grant COVID-19 related deferrals to prospective jurors. These requests may be made by contacting the jury office at (559) 416-5570 or online at http://jury.madera.courts.ca.gov.

Prospective jurors who report for service will be directed to available areas of the courthouse to maintain appropriate social distancing consistent with state public health recommendations.

In-custody arraignments will continue as scheduled by remote video conference.

Trials currently underway will continue as scheduled, however, jurors may be asked to take health appropriate measures such as sitting outside the jury box to encourage appropriate social distancing.

The court requests that persons appearing in the jury assembly rooms and courtrooms maintain at least one empty seat between themselves and other persons.

The court requests that all persons appearing in the courthouse allow appropriate space between themselves and others when waiting in lines and that they not crowd elevators or other confined areas.

Court users and visitors will be asked to wait in hallways or outside courtrooms to help maintain appropriate social distancing.

Attorneys and litigants are reminded that it is their responsibility to keep your contact information, including addresses and telephone numbers, current with the court. This is the court’s only way of contacting you to keep you informed of developments in this fluid and rapidly changing environment.

Those who are ill, including jurors, potential jurors, attorneys, litigants, justice partners and court staff should remain at home. If you have a matter on calendar, you should contact the court and advise that you will not be appearing due to illness.

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