Superior Court announces plan to mitigate spread of virus
In light of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order, President Trump’s March 13, National Emergency Declaration, and the March 13, Public Health Emergency declared by the Merced County Health Department and the City of Merced, the Merced County Superior Court is taking specific preventative action.
Effective Tuesday, March 17, Merced County Superior Court will adjust its court operations as follows:
- All civil jury trials currently set between Tuesday, March 17, and Tuesday, April 28, will be continued on a rolling basis for 8 weeks from the currently scheduled trial date.
- All time-waived misdemeanor jury trials currently set between Tuesday, March 17, and Tuesday, April 28, will be continued on a rolling basis for 8 weeks from the currently scheduled trial date.
- All time-waived felony out-of-custody jury trials currently set between Tuesday, March 17, and Tuesday, April 28, will be continued on a rolling basis for 8 weeks from the currently scheduled trial date.
- All traffic hearings currently set between Monday, March 23, and Tuesday, April 28, will be continued on a rolling basis for 60 days from the currently scheduled hearing date.
- All time-waived traffic trials currently set between Monday, March 23, and Tuesday, April 28, will be continued on a rolling basis for 60 days from the currently scheduled trial date.
- Starting Tuesday, March 17, all traffic “walk in” appearances will be suspended through Tuesday, April 28. Parties in traffic matters may telephone the Clerk’s Office at 209-725-4107 for Merced or 209-725-4124 for Los Banos to schedule an arraignment date. Any other citation appearance dates set during this period, or failures to appear, will be automatically extended to a date after April 28; parties will be noticed.
- New citation appearance dates in traffic matters will be set 6 months from the date listed on the citation. Any requests to address matters that require immediate attention, including requests to lift DMV driver’s license holds, may be mailed to the Court and will be addressed remotely where possible.
- Family law bench officers will exercise their discretion in continuing non-emergency Request for Order hearings and Status Conferences currently set between Tuesday, March 17, and April 28.
- Family Court Services will suspend its in person mediation services, effective Tuesday, March 17, but will schedule telephonic mediation opportunities for litigants. • The Court’s Self-Help Centers will be closed. In person interviews will be suspended, effective Tuesday, March 17.
- The Court will extend its Self-Help telephone hours to 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and will work to implement additional opportunities for the public to interact with Self-Help staff. Members of the public can reach the Self-Help office by emailing [email protected]
- No-time-waiver criminal matters, restraining order hearings, emergency family law Requests for Order, and other case or calendar types and hearings not specifically listed above will continue to be heard as Court resources and health directives permit, but with the following modifications:
- Attorneys and litigants are strongly encouraged to file documents through E-Filing or by mail.
- Attorneys and litigants are strongly encouraged to make court appearances telephonically or through CourtCall in all case types. For telephonic appearances, please contact the clerk’s office for the department that your hearing is scheduled in. For CourtCall, please call (888) 882-6878.
- Subject to judicial discretion, the Court will liberally grant hearing continuances upon request and will be reducing calendar sizes and stagger the calling of different calendar types to minimize health and safety concerns.
- The Court will only summon jurors to a courthouse for “essential” trials as required by law. In those circumstances, jury panel sizes will be reduced, and trial calls will be staggered to reduce group sizes.
- The Court will continue to grant COVID-19 related deferrals. Prospective jurors may make such requests on-line through this link, by calling the Jury Office at 209-725-4121 [press Option #1], or by emailing [email protected]
- Trials currently underway will continue as scheduled. However, sworn jurors may be asked to take health-appropriate measures such as sitting outside the jury box to encourage appropriate social distancing.
- The Court asks that, when entering a courtroom or jury assembly room, members of the public should keep at least one vacant seat between themselves and the next unfamiliar person.
- The Court further asks that members of the public allow space while waiting in lines, and that they not crowd elevators or other confined spaces. Court visitors may be asked to wait in hallways or outside courtrooms and courthouses to minimize gathering sizes in closed areas. Please follow the accommodation, health, and safety directions of any Sheriff’s Deputies, Court Attendants, or other Court Employees offering their assistance.
- As a reminder, those who are ill should stay home; the Court may ask members of the public who are exhibiting visible symptoms of illness such as coughing to leave.
The Court will continue to monitor this evolving situation and will make further operational adjustments as appropriate. Please check the Court’s website for ongoing COVID-19 updates and additional juror and remote appearance information.
The Court supports and agrees with the statement issued by California’s Chief Justice, Hon. Tani G. Cantil-Sakuye, on March 13: “Although the extent of the pandemic is unknown at this time, California’s courts will continue to do what they do best: balancing public safety and health while protecting liberty and due process.” The Merced County Superior Court will strive to maintain our essential functions and Constitutional obligations while working to minimize COVID- 19-related risks. We appreciate the understanding, patience, and support of the public and our Court partners during these challenging times.
The Court has implemented Standing Order #2020-04 regarding our plan to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19, which shall remain in effect until April 28, unless modified, canceled or extended by written order.