Alameda Courts Town Hall August 21, 2020 – Notes

One attendee’s take from the recent civil town hall – tips and tricks.

General

  • The Court is down to 60% of clerks. This is due to a myriad of reasons related to COVID. Due to this decrease in Clerks most aspects of Court business is curtailed and slowed.
  • Only 3 trials will be able to be going simultaneously.
  • If you do come to court YOU MUST WEAR A MASK.
  • DO NOT CALL the court there is no one there to answer your call.
  • MSC: Judge McGuiness is heading up this department.
  • Courts are looking at continuing remote proceedings even after the pandemic
  • File & Email stipulations – no need for ex parte.
  • Provide courtesy copies for the judge. Due to the decreased staff it is important to get those copies to the judge.

Jury Trials

  • There are only 2 courtrooms in Alameda which are big enough for jury trials – one in Oakland & one in Dublin.
  • Preference and UD cases will go first.
  • All virtual right now.
  • All hearings are on the Rocket Broadcast System – a link for which can be found on the website. You CAN NOT record these proceedings or take screenshots (without authorization) – same rules of court apply. Here is the link: http://www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/Pages.aspx/Live-Stream
  • CourtCall is no longer used for anything. Zoom is being used for trials and BlueJeans for everything else.
  • Side Bars are created by going into a breakout room
  • Still responsible for court reporter fees.

Juries

  • During Voir Dire- they are questioned in clumps of 18 those jury members are pinned so you can see them but you can see any of the jury members if wanted within the Zoom technology.
  • Jury members are given and expected to follow the same rules. They are asked to pay attention, dress appropriately; not do outside research. Court staff and the judge is watching them to make sure they are paying attention and that they are keeping their cameras on.
  • Zoom may make it easier to judge jury reactions as you can zoom in on each person.
  • It is unclear yet how juries will deliberate as no trial has gotten there yet.

Witnesses

  • Witnesses go into a Zoom waiting room until they are called.
  • Parties need to identify 72 hours ahead for exhibits for that witness including any PPTs.
  • Impeachment documents should be emailed to court and to other side while presenting and then to the witness if needed. Nothing is shown to the jury until court authorizes.
  • Witnesses need to be alone in the room while they are testifying. The judge will confirm this is happening.

Filing

  • e-Filing is still in the works but implementation is delayed by COVID. There is no uniform statewide system. Each jurisdiction makes their own decisions.
  • Fax File is not automatic – a clerk must still handle it which takes time and there is less staff.
  • Fees: no premium fax file fees or CourtCall fees
  • Imaging documents takes over a week
  • There is no preference given for how something is filed.
  • Check domain for tentative rulings. If there is a tentative ruling it will be put up usually the day before by 3pm. If you do not see such email the clerk. Do not assume and just show up for a hearing.