Delays expected to continue in Central Valley courts

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been said the wheels of justice turn slow and now, based on new orders in place in both Fresno and Tulare Counties, it will be even more delayed due to a large number of local COVID cases.

An announcement expected on Wednesday will set back all Fresno County criminal trials to January.

In Tulare County, all civil and criminal trials have been suspended as well.

"There's nothing really good about it, so to speak, it's just something everybody has to deal with," said Mark Broughton, a criminal defense attorney who is on the Continuity of Court Operations COVID-19 committee.

On Tuesday, Broughton learned criminal trials will be continued until January 8 at the earliest.

Only a few criminal trials have been held throughout the pandemic- because of many obvious hurdles. Many civil trials are also being continued.

"And the reason for that is if you think about it, a lot of jurors have to come into the courthouse and so it can be very dangerous for them - exposing them to potential COVID and the pandemic and also the court personnel and everyone else involved," Broughton said.

In Tulare County, even more restrictive measures are being taken. All jury trials are being postponed. Traffic and small claims cases are also being continued until next year. Service counters are available by appointment and only those with official business will be allowed into the courthouse.

"We are going to follow these reduced operations through the life of the stay-at-home order so if it continues past three weeks then it is very likely that we will continue reduced business as well," said Stephanie Cameron with Tulare County Courts.

Monday, the California State Justice sent out an advisory to all counties in the state allowing them to take emergency measures when local conditions warrant court orders.

The ongoing pandemic has already delayed many cases, including those in family law court.

Many judges, attorneys, and court staff members expect 2021 to be a year of prioritizing which cases must be heard first - because the backlog will be substantial.
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