Wednesday, April 21, 2021

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Trial court impacted by coronavirus surge

Colusa County Superior Court was just beginning to ease months of pandemic-related restrictions when the state’s COVID-19 infection numbers began to spike. 

However, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, in an advisory last week, said no new statewide order for the courts would go into effect unless conditions require additional actions or other changes. 

“As an essential service listed under the governor’s guidelines, our courts are exempt from closure and continue to balance constitutional and statutory rights with the safety and health of all court users, employees, jurors, justice partners, and judicial officers,” said Cantil-Sakauye.

Cantil-Sakauye said the Judicial Council of California, like the governor, recognizes that the health crisis has manifested itself differently throughout the state, so she has left it up to the local courts to steer their own course through the current COVID-19 surge. 

Colusa County has had 991 cases of COVID-19 since March with 163 active cases in isolation, 264 quarantined, four hospitalized, and eight deaths, as of Monday. 

“Because the 58 trial courts and six appellate districts all face different impacts from the latest COVID-19 surge, each will determine its operations based on different capacities and resources,” she said. 

Colusa County Superior Court has operated on temporary emergency orders since the onset of the pandemic by requiring facial coverings, and by limiting seating in the courtroom to adhere to physical distancing recommendations. The office of the court clerks have also operated at reduced hours since the pandemic started. 

While courtroom proceedings in Colusa have continued, Colusa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson said Dec. 9 that his ability to conduct jury trials is the most impacted by the pandemic. 

Thompson said several upcoming trials would likely be postponed until the crisis from the current COVID-19 surge passes. 

The man accused of the arson fire that destroyed the Safe Haven Recovery Center was scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 13. 

The man accused of seriously injuring a Princeton teenager by striking her disabled ATV was scheduled to go to trial in early February, as was the Stonyford man accused of threatening a woman by firing a shotgun near her residence.

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