Santa Cruz Superior Court
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Santa Cruz Superior Court is a city courthouse in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. It consists of two judicial divisions. The courthouse was completely established in 1896 but demolished in 1989. The courthouse was again established in 1991. The court’s mission is to protect the rights of people through the enforcement of the law giving equal justice access by quality service to the community through judicial officers and court staff. They treat every person with respect and provide justice. It has jurisdiction over criminal, small claims, probation, juvenile, appeal, finance, civil, restraining order cases, family, traffic, and vehicle matters. They provide online services like online payment, forms, fines, online case lookup, and many more, so it is optional to go to court for these services. This court also provides self-help for a different division. Every person must follow local rules and wear a mask in this court. Proper dressing is required during the case hearing. Two superior courts located in this county are:
- SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT – MAIN COURTHOUSE
- SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT – WATSONVILLE COURT
Overview of the Superior Court of Santa Cruz County
History and background
The Superior Court of Santa Cruz County is part of the California state court system. It was established in 1850 when California became a state. The court serves all of Santa Cruz County, which is located on the central coast of California along the Monterey Bay.
Santa Cruz County has a population of around 275,000 people. The county seat and largest city is the city of Santa Cruz. Other major cities include Watsonville, Scotts Valley and Capitola. Tourism, agriculture, and education are major industries in the county.
Jurisdiction and caseload
As a Superior Court, it is a trial court of general jurisdiction handling civil, criminal, family law, probate, juvenile, and traffic cases originating within Santa Cruz County. The court operates under the California Superior Court system and is funded by the state.
In 2020, there were over 8,000 filings in Santa Cruz Superior Court. This included over 1,500 felony filings, over 3,000 misdemeanor filings, around 1,000 civil unlimited filings, over 500 family law filings, and over 1,000 probate filings. The court has over 60 judicial officers and staff who handle this caseload across multiple courthouse locations.
Santa Cruz Superior Court operates courthouses in four locations:
- Santa Cruz Courthouse – The main courthouse located in downtown Santa Cruz. It houses the court’s administration and handles all case types.
- Watsonville Courthouse – A branch courthouse located in Watsonville handling traffic, small claims, civil, and criminal cases.
- Felton Courthouse – A small branch courthouse located in Felton handling traffic citations and infractions.
- Juvenile Hall Court – A court located at the county’s juvenile detention center that handles juvenile delinquency matters.
Judges and staff
Santa Cruz Superior Court currently has 13 sitting judges. Judges are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.
In addition to judges, the court employs court commissioners, mediators, administrators, clerks, court reporters, interpreters, and other support staff. The court uses both employees and contractors for various roles.
The current Presiding Judge is the Honorable Paul Burdick. The Court Executive Officer, who oversees administration, is Jamie Lowe.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court – Main Courthouse
Location and Contact Info
The main courthouse for the Santa Cruz County Superior Court is located at:
701 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The courthouse is open Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 5:00pm, excluding court holidays.
The Santa Cruz County Courthouse was built in 1926 in a Classical Revival style. It is recognizable by its distinctive dome and ionic columns at the entrance. The building was designed by architect William H. Weeks and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982.
In 1989, the courthouse underwent a major renovation and expansion project to update facilities and create more courtrooms and office space. Further renovations were done in the 2000s. Today, the courthouse has 9 courtrooms, judge’s chambers, and various court offices.
Departments and Services
The Santa Cruz Courthouse houses the following departments:
- Civil Division – handles civil lawsuits and small claims cases
- Criminal Division – handles misdemeanor and felony criminal cases
- Family Law Division – handles divorces, child custody, and other family law matters
- Juvenile Dependency Division – handles child abuse and neglect cases
- Probate Division – handles wills, trusts, conservatorships, and estates
- Records & Exhibits Division – maintains court records and exhibits
- Jury Services Division – manages the jury selection process
- Court Interpreter Services – provides interpreters for non-English speakers
The courthouse also has self-help services, mediation services, and a law library available to the public. Court documents can be filed in person or by mail.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court – Watsonville Courthouse
Location and Contact Info
The Watsonville branch courthouse for the Santa Cruz County Superior Court is located at:
1 Second Street Watsonville, CA 95076
This courthouse is open Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 5:00pm, excluding court holidays.
The Watsonville Courthouse was built in 2010 to replace an older courthouse built in 1954. The new courthouse was designed by architectural firm RossDrulisCusenbery and built at a cost of $48 million. It was the first LEED Gold certified courthouse in California.
The Watsonville Courthouse has 4 courtrooms, judge’s chambers, and court offices. It provides easier access to court services for southern Santa Cruz County residents.
Departments and Services
The Watsonville Courthouse contains the following departments:
- Civil Division – handles civil lawsuits and small claims cases
- Criminal Division – handles misdemeanor criminal cases and traffic cases
- Family Law Division – handles divorces, child custody, and other family law matters
- Juvenile Delinquency Division – handles juvenile criminal cases
- Self-Help Center – assists people representing themselves in court
- Mediation Services – provides mediators to help resolve disputes
- Records Section – processes and files court documents
The courthouse has an attorney conference center, children’s waiting room, and law library for public use. Court records can also be filed here.
Using the Santa Cruz County Superior Courts
Finding Case Information
Case information for the Santa Cruz County Superior Court can be searched online through the court’s website or by coming to the courthouse records department. Both locations have public access terminals to look up civil, criminal, family, probate, and traffic cases.
Basic case information like future hearing dates, charges filed, and case statuses can be viewed for free. More detailed records like dispositions, judgments, and documents filed can also be obtained by requesting copies and paying any applicable fees.
Paying Fines and Fees
Fines and fees owed to the Santa Cruz County Superior Court from traffic tickets, civil judgments, criminal cases, and other matters can be paid online, by mail, by phone, or in person.
The court accepts cash, checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, and credit/debit cards. Traffic fines and criminal fines and fees have different payment options and instructions available on the court’s website.
Getting Court Forms and Documents
Many standardized court forms used in California Superior Courts, like those for divorces, small claims cases, and name changes, are available for free on the California Courts website.
Some Santa Cruz County-specific forms and instructional booklets can be downloaded from the Santa Cruz Court’s website as well. Both courthouses have self-help centers that provide forms and assistance in person.
Court documents from individual cases can be obtained by requesting copies from the courthouse records department and paying any copy fees. Certified copies may also be available for an additional charge.
Residents of Santa Cruz County may be summoned for jury duty at the Santa Cruz or Watsonville courthouses. After receiving a jury summons in the mail, requested accommodations and excusals can be submitted online or by phone.
Potential jurors must check-in at the courthouse on their summons date to determine if they will be selected for a trial. Most trials last 2-3 days but may sometimes be longer. Employers are required to provide time off for jury duty.
Attending a Court Hearing or Trial
Court hearings and trials are generally open to the public unless specially closed by a judge. Visitors should dress appropriately, turn off electronic devices, and remain quiet and respectful when observing court proceedings. Weapons and photography/recording are prohibited.
Court calendars with scheduled cases are posted daily outside the courtrooms and online. Visitors may have to pass through security screening to enter the courthouse
Online Services from the Superior Court of Santa Cruz County
The Superior Court of California County of Santa Cruz offers a variety of online resources to assist citizens in managing their interactions with the court system. From traffic tickets to jury duty, the court’s website provides convenient access to many common court services.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Records and Information
The Santa Cruz County Superior Court website offers online access to local court records, calendars, rules, orders, and other information.
Searching Court Records Online
The public can search Santa Cruz County Superior Court case records through the court’s online portal. This allows users to look up civil, criminal, family, probate, and traffic cases by party names or case numbers. Dockets, calendars, and select case documents are available.
Viewing Court Calendars and Schedules
Upcoming court hearings and case events can be viewed online using the court’s calendar search. Daily court calendars are posted for civil, criminal, family, probate, juvenile, and traffic departments.
Accessing Local Court Rules and Orders
The Santa Cruz County Superior Court website publishes local court rules that govern procedures and requirements for cases. Recent court orders, such as probate pre-approval lists, can also be accessed.
California Court Records and Information
Statewide online resources provide access to legal opinions, court forms, rules, statistics, and other information.
Attorney General Legal Opinions
The public can read legal opinions issued by the California Attorney General addressing legal questions posed by government officials. Opinions date back to 1985.
Interactive Court Forms
California provides interactive court forms that can be completed online for certain civil, family, guardianship, and small claims cases. Completed forms can be printed and filed.
Rules of Court
The California Rules of Court govern procedures and requirements for state courts. Users can view rules for civil, criminal, family, juvenile, probate, and appellate cases.
Court Statistics and Reports
Extensive data on state court caseloads, expenditures, and operations can be found in statistical reports published by California’s court system.
Many court-ordered payments can now be paid online through court or government websites.
Paying Fines and Fees
Santa Cruz County Superior Court allows individuals to pay criminal fines, traffic tickets, and related fees online with a credit card.
Traffic School Registration and Payment
Drivers can register and pay for DMV-approved traffic schools online to meet court requirements. Links are provided to search for approved schools.
Legal Research Resources
A wealth of self-help materials and legal research tools are available through local and state websites.
Local Law Libraries
The Santa Cruz County Law Library provides online information on its location, hours, collections, and legal research services available to the public.
Santa Cruz Superior Court’s Self-Help Center offers online descriptions of its services, including family law and small claims assistance.
State Laws and Regulations
Users can search the official California Codes online for statutes, laws, and regulations. Full legal code texts are provided.
Online Legal Research Tools
Legal research tutorials, annotated law libraries, and free AskNow virtual reference services are available through California county law libraries.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Court programs promote alternatives to litigation such as mediation, arbitration, and settlement conferences.
Some California courts offer civil mediation programs that parties can voluntarily use to resolve disputes out of court.
Details on judicial arbitration programs for civil cases are provided, including procedures and information on selecting arbitrators.
Settlement Conference Procedures
Parties can learn about court settlement conferences, which provide an opportunity to negotiate a mutually agreeable resolution.
Legal Aid and Services
Free and low-cost legal assistance is accessible through legal aid organizations, lawyer referral networks, and limited-scope representation.
Legal Aid Organizations
Contact information is provided for legal aid groups offering free civil legal services to qualifying low-income Californians.
Lawyer Referral Services
Local bar associations connect users to lawyers offering reduced-cost consultations and legal representation through referral networks.
Attorneys may provide discrete legal services on a limited basis, such as document preparation or court appearances, at a lower cost.
Fee Dispute Resolution
The State Bar of California offers low-cost mediation and arbitration services to resolve attorney-client fee disputes.
Paying Fines and Fees Online
If you have received a traffic citation or criminal fine in Santa Cruz County, you can easily pay it online through the court’s website.
Pay Traffic and Criminal Fines
The court allows online payment of traffic fines and criminal fines via credit card. This is a fast and simple way to resolve outstanding tickets and infractions.
If you need to set up a payment plan for a larger fine, you can submit the request online. The court will review your proposed payment schedule.
Looking Up Case Information
The Superior Court of Santa Cruz makes extensive case information available through its online portal.
Criminal, Traffic, Civil, Family Law, Probate, Small Claims
You can look up case details across many legal areas – criminal and traffic cases, civil suits, family law, probate matters, small claims, and more.
Using the Online Portal
The portal provides case numbers, calendar information, names of parties involved, and other specifics. This allows you to stay up to date on the status of any case you are involved in.
Managing Jury Duty
The Santa Cruz County Superior Court has helpful online services for those called to jury duty.
Checking Jury Duty Status
You can easily check your jury service status and summons information online. The portal shows if you have been summoned, the reporting date, and whether you have been excused.
If the scheduled date for jury service does not work for you, you can submit a request online to postpone your service to a later date. The court will review and respond to requests.
Court Date Reminders
A convenient text messaging reminder system can help you stay organized on court dates and deadlines.
Text Message Reminders
The court sends text reminders for upcoming hearing dates and payment due dates. Simply text your case number to the provided court number to enroll.
How to Sign Up
Instructions for signing up for text reminders are available on the court’s website. This service helps you avoid missing important court events.
Remote Court Appearances
For those unable to appear in court in person, the Santa Cruz court provides remote appearance services.
Virtual Courtroom Information
Details on connecting to the court’s virtual courtroom are outlined on the website. This allows you to attend hearings remotely via videoconference.
Remote Appearance Instructions
Step-by-step instructions explain how to setup and access the virtual courtroom. Guidelines are provided for both Zoom and BlueJeans platforms.
Notable Cases and Controversies
High-profile criminal cases
Santa Cruz Superior Court has handled various high-profile homicide trials, including:
- The murder of Maddy Middleton in 2015 by a 15-year-old neighbor.
- The 1989 murder of Kim Ancona by three teenagers.
- The infamous 1981 trial of serial killer Herbert Mullin.
These cases drew significant local and national media interest at the time.
Significant civil litigation
Notable civil cases include:
- A 2018 class action lawsuit against Santa Cruz County Jail alleging unconstitutional conditions.
- A 2012 wrongful death suit against Santa Cruz police over a fatal shooting.
- A 1990 lawsuit against the city over a collapsed Pacific Garden Mall building.
Juvenile and family law cases
Many confidential juvenile cases involve serious crimes like murder and sexual assault. On the family side, the court sees complex divorce and custody battles, some involving local celebrities.
Future Outlook and Initiatives
Court technology upgrades
Santa Cruz Superior Court plans to upgrade its case management system and digitize more records. This will increase online access, simplify e-filing, and organize data.
Proposed new courthouse
The County is considering constructing a consolidated county courthouse complex to replace the aging existing buildings. However, funding and planning remain in early stages.
In conclusion, Santa Cruz Superior Court plays a vital role serving justice and resolving legal disputes for the county’s diverse communities. While adapting to growth and technology changes, its mission remains providing fair, accessible forums for civil, criminal, family, juvenile, probate, and traffic matters. Looking ahead, improving court facilities and leveraging innovation will be key to preparing the Court for the future needs of Santa Cruz County residents.
- Santa Cruz County Superior Court Website
- California Courts Online Self-Help Center
- LawHelpCalifornia.org – Legal aid directory
Q: How can I access public records from Santa Cruz Superior Court cases?
A: Court records can be accessed online through the court’s website or by visiting the courthouse records departments in person. Remote access is limited for confidential cases like juveniles and guardianships.
Q: What are the main courthouse locations for Santa Cruz Superior Court?
A: The main courthouse is located in downtown Santa Cruz. Additional branches are located in Watsonville, Felton, and at the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall facility.
Q: How can I serve on a jury for a trial in Santa Cruz County?
A: Jury duty is assigned randomly from voter registrations and DMV records. If summoned, you must appear on your date unless excused. The court’s website has instructions about confirming, postponing, or being excused from service.
Q: What kind of cases does the traffic division handle?
A: The traffic division adjudicates non-criminal traffic infractions, such as speeding tickets and parking violations. It also handles some misdemeanor charges like DUIs. Traffic cases do not involve jury trials.
Q: What is the self-help center and how can it help me?
A: The self-help center at the Santa Cruz courthouse helps people represent themselves in court. They can provide information on rules and procedures, help filling out and filing forms, and explain court decisions. Services are free but limited.
What types of cases can I look up online?
You can look up criminal, traffic, civil, family law, probate, small claims, and other case types through the online portal.
Can I pay all court fees and fines online?
Yes, the court allows online payment of traffic fines, criminal fines, and other court fees by credit card.
How do I access the virtual courtroom?
Instructions for accessing the remote courtroom via Zoom or BlueJeans are provided on the court’s website.
Can I postpone jury duty online?
Yes, you can submit a request online to postpone your jury service to a later date.
What information do the court text reminders include?
The text reminders cover upcoming hearing dates, payment due dates, and other important court event dates.
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