Reopening Bay Area: Contra Costa County courts begin reopening amid COVID-19 pandemic

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ByAmy Hollyfield KGO logo
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Contra Costa County courts begin reopening amid pandemic
Contra Costa County courts have begun reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Courts are back open in Contra Costa County. Among other things, that will mean jurors will have to wear a mask.

The presiding judge at the courthouse in Martinez says it was a huge, challenging task getting ready for Tuesday. He says he is sympathetic to people who are apprehensive about coming here and they've done everything they can to make things as safe as possible.

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The security check now involves a thermometer. You have to get your temperature taken in order to enter the Contra Costa County courthouse.

But it is now open with many changes in place.

"We've invested in electrostatic cleaners. So the whole courthouse is cleaned, the bathrooms are cleaned four times a day. We're going to extreme lengths to make it as safe as possible," said presiding Judge Barry Baskin.

Baskin says he knows this isn't ideal and he knows some people are nervous to come here, but staying closed wasn't an option. "Defendants have a right to speedy trial, so that's what necessitated our court reopening."

There was a line of people waiting to get inside on Tuesday when they opened, some of them grateful that the courthouse is now available.

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"I'm excited that they're open today. I needed it about a week ago, I wanted to file a restraining order and was unable to do that," said Contra Costa County resident Angela Schweig.

Some attorneys have also been anxious to get in, wondering what the shutdown meant for their filing deadlines.

"My frustration is that I haven't been able to get a clear answer, either from the court because they're closed and just chatting with other attorneys here in Contra Costa County... no one really knows," said trust attorney Jeff Hall.

People who went through the process on Tuesday said it all ran smoothly.

"They did pretty good. They checked your temperature at the door, I was the only one in there. I think they did a pretty good job there," said defendant Zack Zachary.

If you have jury duty, they want you to know they spaced out arrival times, lines will be shorter, there will be fewer of you in the courtroom for questioning and, if you're over the age of 60 and you have an underlying condition, you can check off that you don't want to be there on the website.

Get more information on the Contra Costa County Superior Court website here.

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