After being shuttered for nearly two years, the Palo Alto Courthouse is scheduled to reopen on May 2, the Santa Clara County Superior Court announced on Monday.
The courthouse, located at 270 Grant Ave., was closed starting in March 2020, after Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued an order directing residents and businesses to shelter at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Although trials and some hearings were held online on Zoom and were accessible by teleconference calls, the Palo Alto and Morgan Hill courthouses remained off limits. Their operations were consolidated in San Jose.
Despite the state's reopening in June, the Palo Alto Courthouse remained closed indefinitely due to staffing shortages and budget constraints, forcing the public to attend hearings at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. In-person services in the clerk's office were also only available at the Hall of Justice.
The court now plans to open the courthouse on May 2, according to a press release. The Morgan Hill Courthouse reopened for criminal trials last year; it will reopen its other services beginning Jan. 18.
"The Court is taking a thoughtful and measured approach as we continue to move forward with the restoration of services countywide. We understand that this is a significant change but a necessary one. Reopening courthouses will help us do the court's business, resolve backlogs, increase access, and minimize crowding for our courthouses and clerk's offices," Presiding Judge Theodore C. Zayner said.
"Through the pandemic, the court has updated our business processes, introduced and enhanced the use of new technologies as we continued to provide access to justice for the people of Santa Clara County. Wherever possible, we anticipate maintaining these online and virtual service enhancements, which have proven to increase access to justice while minimizing exposure to COVID-19."
Once open, the courthouses will implement safety measures to protect the public from COVID-19. The court will install Plexiglas partitions in the courtrooms and add deep cleaning and sanitation practices.
"If you are sick or experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, do not come to court. The court will postpone and reschedule court dates, as necessary, to accommodate those who are ill due to COVID-19," the court statement said.
Anyone who needs to contact or inform the court of an illness may do so by emailing the appropriate division. A list of email addresses can be found at scscourt.org.