Santa Cruz County courthouse
Court is held on the outdoor steps of the Santa Cruz County Courthouse in Santa Cruz on March 23. Hearings and jury trials will return indoors later this summer. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ—On a normal day in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, hundreds of people filter in and out of four courtrooms as their criminal cases wind their way through the system.

That changed on Mar. 17, when court officials delayed all jury trials and severely limited most other cases.

The move came as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the number of people packed into courtrooms.

To handle the cases that still must be heard, however, the court made the unprecedented move of moving them to the courthouse steps.

Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge John Salazar on Monday stood behind a podium as dozens of people approached one at a time, keeping the six-foot buffer recommended by health officials. Most of these people received future court dates.

Suspects who are in custody saw a different judge in a courtroom in Santa Cruz County Jail.

“We wanted to make sure we can have appropriate social distancing, and it can be very difficult to do that in the courtroom,” Court Executive Officer Alex Calvo said. “We have 85 cases on calendar today, and usually there are several hundred cases on calendar, so we’ve already reduced it dramatically.”

Calvo said that anyone unsure about an upcoming court date should call their attorney, call the court or look up their case on the county website.

“If none of these things work and you have a court date, you still need to come,” Calvo said.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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