County courts to maintain protocols


Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

Although the state is ‘reopened,’ some COVID-19 protocols remain at Madera County’s Superior court like masks are worn at all times and Zoom or video meetings can be used.

Madera County Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, Ernie LiCalsi, issued the 31st general order of the Madera County Superior Court on June 18 in regards to reopening California.


The order reads:


On March 4, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation that a state of emergency existed in California as a result of the threat and continuing spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). This was followed by the governor’s first issued ‘shelter in place’ order, which went into effect March 19, 2020.


Since these early efforts to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the public informed, California experienced numerous mitigation efforts at the state level, including Governor Newsom’s four-tier blueprint for reopening the economy and a regional stay-at-home order that was lifted in January, 2021.


With the lifting of the regional stay-at-home order, Madera County returned to the provisions of the four-tier blueprint for reopening the economy and has since improved to the third least restrictive ‘Orange Tier.’


In recent months, the transmission of COVID-19 has drastically decreased in both the State of California and Madera County.

Courthouses were considered places of high risk during the pandemic; however, case rates and positivity rates are now more optimal in Madera County.


With the recent June 15 “Reopening of California,” the Madera County Superior Court, pursuant to guidance from the California Department of Health and the Madera County Public Health Department, will continue to adhere to certain preventative measures that mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including: mandatory use of masks/face coverings, symptom screening upon entry, facility disinfection and fostering an environment that encourages hand washing and sanitizing.

Accordingly, I hereby issue the following general orders, with the referenced effective dates.


Effective June 8, and continuing until further notice:


• The 2021 Emergency Bail Schedule was revoked as of June 8. The 2021 Felony Bail Schedule (included selected misdemeanors), signed by Presiding Judge Ernest LiCalsi on Jan. 4, is re-instituted.


Effective June 15, and continuing until further notice:


• Social distancing: All persons entering the Madera County Superior Court will no longer be required to adhere to the COVID-19 6-foot distancing requirement. This includes all areas of the courthouse, including all courtrooms and jury assembly areas.


• Masks/face coverings for court visitors and jurors: All persons entering the Madera County Superior Court to conduct business, attend proceedings and report for jury duty will be required to wear a mask or face covering while inside the courthouse.


• COVID-19 symptom screening: All persons entering the Madera County Superior Court will be required to answer screening questions about the presence of symptoms related to COVID-19. The court requests that no one who is ill with symptoms of COVID-19 appear at the courthouse.


Those who are ill, including attorneys, litigants and justice partners, should remain at home or in a location away from the courthouse. If you have a matter on the calendar, or if entry is not granted based on responses to the health screening questions, you should contact the court and advise that you will not be appearing due to illness or the potential exposure to illness.


• Court calendar: Calendar times that were created to accommodate social distancing are eliminated. All departments will generally have one calendar each day with exceptions for special set calendars. For example: 8:15 a.m. for ex parte hearings; 9:30 a.m. for trial and preliminary hearing calendars; 10 a.m. for settlement conference calendars; 1:30 p.m. for behavioral health court calendars; and 1:30 p.m. for arraignments, etc.


• In-person appearances will be permitted in any civil, family law or family support proceeding. At the choice of the parties, all proceedings may be conducted remotely by the use of CourtCall or the Zoom video conference platform. For all non-confidential proceedings, members of the public may also appear in-person or by Zoom.


• Normal, criminal arraignments will be by Zoom or any method of video conferencing approved by the court.


• In-custody defendants will be transported to the courthouse from CDCR or the Madera County jail unless otherwise ordered by the court.


• For criminal proceedings, members of the public may appear in-person or via Zoom.


• The self-help office is open to the public and will continue in-person appointments. When operationally feasible, the use of remote technology is authorized as an alternative to in-person appointments.


Effective from the 27th order, and continuing until further notice:


• Notwithstanding Madera County Superior Court, Local Rule 2.4.6: All applicants for ex parte relief shall be submitted to the court before the hearing is provided to the opposing party. A judicial officer will review the application and a judicial assistant will notify the applicant if notice to the opposing party and a court appearance is required. If a hearing date is ordered by the judicial officer, the person applying for ex parte relief must notify the opposing party no later than 10 a.m. of the court day before the hearing date ordered, unless the judicial officer finds good cause to dispense with such notice.


• All oral arguments in the appellate department may be conducted remotely via CourtCall or the Zoom video conference platform.


Effective from the 29th general order, and continuing until further notice:


• All mediation services and investigative interviews to be provided by Family County Court services shall be conducted telephonically unless in-person mediation or interview is specifically ordered by the court. The exception to this restriction shall be in-person child interviews, which will be conducted as required by statute, or as requested by the assigned child custody recommending counselor. Pursuant to provisions of section 1851 (a)(1), the probate code, the court investigator may conduct conservatorship investigations as required by sections 1950 and 1951 of the probate code by means of a video interview of the conservatee, in lieu of visiting the conservatee. This order is necessary for the health and safety of the investigator, the conservatee, the caregivers and the public, and to prevent harm of the conservatee.


Effective June 20, and continues as allowed:


• All criminal proceedings in which the time for commencement of trial, provided for in Penal Code section 1381, has not been waived may be continued for good cause, as determined by the judicial officer and/or as authorized by any continuation order of the chief justice.


Each judicial officer retains discretion to deviate from the foregoing orders upon finding of good cause.


State of California issues reopening adjustments


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to health and safety concerns resulting in substantial operational impediments, and the proclamations of states of emergency by federal, state, and local officials, it was determined on 15 prior occasions that the conditions described in Government Code section 68115(a) were met with regard to the Superior Court of California, County of Madera. Based on those determinations, and pursuant to the court’s requests, corresponding emergency orders issued, authorizing the court to implement certain relief under Government Code section 68115. Upon the renewed request of Presiding Judge Ernest J. LiCalsi, it is now determined that the conditions described in section 68115(a) continue to exist (Gov. Code, § 68115(c)), and it is ordered that the court is authorized to do the following:


• Hold sessions anywhere in the county, including in correctional and juvenile detention facilities, from June 20, 2021, to July 20, 2021, inclusive (Gov. Code, § 68115(a)(1)); and


• Extend the time period provided in section 1382 of the Penal Code for the holding of a criminal trial by not more than 30 days, applicable only to cases in which the original or previously extended statutory deadline otherwise would expire from June 20 2021, to July 20, 2021, inclusive (Gov. Code, § 68115(a)(10).


Signed: Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California and Chair of the Judicial Council.

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