Citing the COVID-19 public health emergency, Santa Barbara County Superior Court officials will postpone swearing in a new civil grand jury until January and may not see jury trials return until mid-July.

Since Monday, activity at the Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Barbara court facilities has slowly started ramping up after limited operations for more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Anyone entering courts should expect to undergo a regular weapons screening and now a temperature check, with masks also required. The courts also have employed video and phone calls more frequently to reduce the number of people entering the buildings.

Presiding Judge Michael Carrozzo recently extended the statutory deadline for jury trials from June 16 to mid-July. Some could occur sooner, but the order gives the court authority to continue them for another 30 days, Court Executive Officer Darrel Parker said.

Among the post-COVID-19 challenges, court staff has worked to iron out complexities of bringing groups of potential jurors into the court facilities.

The local court cautiously has resumed civil, family law and probate matters by expanding the use of conference calling and video conferencing technology, Parker said. Matters scheduled but postponed during the court closure are now being rescheduled, and notices of new hearing dates are being sent.

Anyone with civil, family law and probate matters previously scheduled from May 26 through June 5 should plan on appearing for their court hearing by conference call. Hearings on or after June 8 will occur as planned, so the court doesn’t intend to send notices to attorneys.

Court staff also has worked to reschedule hearing dates during the March 17 to May 22 closure with notices to be sent to self-represented parties and attorneys.

People with family support matters involving the Department of Child Support Services will receive notice of their rescheduled hearing and instructions for remote appearances from DCSS. 

Updates can be found by looking up cases on the court website at or calling the Court Clerk’s Office at 805.882.4520 in Santa Barbara and 805.614.6414 in Santa Maria..

The Superior Court Clerk’s Office will remain closed for in-person transactions until the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted fully, court officials said. However, staff can be reached by phone.

People with criminal or traffic matters who have missed their court date because of the closure will receive notification of a new date to appear or make payment, court staff said. 

The grand jury delay decision came after court officials attempted to recruit new candidates during the public health emergency, leading Carrozzo to announce the decision to delay empaneling grand jurors. New grand jurors typically begin their terms in July, the start of the fiscal year.

A delay provides health protections for potential candidates with plans to interview interested applicants later this year, according to court staff.

It also allows the grand jury’s service to align with the term of the presiding judge and avoid having them deal with different judges in the future, Parker said.

The current Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury, a government watchdog panel, has served since July, with members to be relased once their term ends June 30.

“The members of the grand jury have done an outstanding job in investigating the use of tax dollars in Santa Barbara County. Their selfless dedication to the citizens of Santa Barbara County is greatly appreciated,” he said. 

California law allows the Board of Supervisors to change a grand jury’s term to calendar year, actions that local court leaders will pursue in the coming months.

During the remainder of this year, court leaders said they will increase efforts to recruit grand jury applicants across all five supervisorial districts of Santa Barbara County.  

Qualified applicants must be a citizen of the United States, be older than age 18, a county resident for at least one year, of sound judgment with no felony convictions and possess sufficient knowledge of English.

Citizens interested in serving on the grand jury can find more information at and

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at