EL CENTRO — The Superior Court of California, County of Imperial decided Wednesday, March 18, to effectively close and reduce court operations. The closure will be in effect beginning Monday, March 23, through and Tuesday, March 31.
The Brawley and Winterhaven courthouses will be closed completely during this time. The main El Centro courthouse will be open for limited services to those required to protect the rights of children in our juvenile system, individuals who are in custody, issuance of restraining orders, and any orders necessary to protect the public.
To move as expeditiously as possible while still accommodating the County’s ability to assist the court in reducing public contact, leadership of the Superior Court met March 12 and 16, with the county executive officer and representatives of the District Attorney’s office, Public Defender’s office, County counsel, and others. All were in general agreement with the court’s proposed actions, which were announced March 16.
The court received correspondence Tuesday, March 17, after 5 p.m., from the county executive officer including the county medical officer’s orders regarding COVID-19. The information was reviewed by the presiding judge and court executive officer and resulted in a meeting, which was held at the earliest possible time, with all judicial officers March 18.
The presiding judge announced he decided to exercise his authority to close the court to all but emergency matters. The presiding judge requested and received an emergency order March 18, from Honorable Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of California and chair of the Judicial Council of California pursuant to Government Code section 68115.
The emergency order grants the presiding judge the necessary powers to close and reduce court operations. It also extends certain statutory deadlines, hearing and filing dates, which has now taken place with General Order 2020-1 effective March 19, through April 17.
According to the press release, the court has been monitoring the situation since it began by meeting with justice partners and continually monitoring what other state courts are doing. A greatly increased sanitizing program for all court locations began March 16, and will continue throughout the emergency.
Courts are a symbol of justice to the citizens and residents of the county, state, and nation. They stand as the final resort for the people. Closure of courts at any time undermines the faith people have in the system of government and the protections provided by the constitutions of the state and nation. Therefore, the action is not taken lightly but does ensure that the constitutional rights of residents of the county are protected, which is why the courts remain open for emergency orders necessary to protect the public, said the release.
MARCH 23, 2020 THROUGH MARCH 30, 2020
THE COURT WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR:
The main El Centro Courthouse will be open only to persons who have restraining order paperwork or other emergency requests filled out and ready to file and to law enforcement for emergency orders, search warrants, and critical arrest warrants where public safety is concerned.
Phone service for payments and inquiries regarding jury service and scheduling of court
In-Custody Arraignments will be held via video conference.
THE COURT WILL BE CLOSED FOR:
All civil proceedings will be rescheduled.
All Unlawful Detainer (UD) matters will be rescheduled.
Criminal proceedings including out-of-custody arraignments, readiness, pre-trial motions, and sentencing.
Family court department is closed.
All family court counseling and mediation matters will be rescheduled.
The Access Center will be closed.
All clinics and workshops will be cancelled.
All family support matters will be rescheduled.
No jury trials will be held for at least the next thirty days. Jurors who have received a summons will not be ordered to report but will be required to call in once to meet their yearly service requirement.
All juvenile dependency and delinquency matters will be continued, unless emergency hearing is required.
All adoption and citation calendars will be continued.
All probate hearings will be continued.
All small claims matters will be continued.
The small claims advisor will not be available.
All traffic matters will be rescheduled.