San Jose: Family courthouse closes again Monday amid power struggle with PG&E

SAN JOSE — The Family Justice Center Courthouse in downtown San Jose will be closed for the first half of Monday as part of an ongoing power struggle to get full electrical service restored to the building following an initial equipment failure in March.

Since March, the Santa Clara County Superior Court has relied on generators to maintain operations at the North First Street site, but they have failed at various points and prompted shutdowns in the intervening two months. Court calendars were relocated to other area courthouses, including the Downtown Superior Court building across the street.

Adding to the headache has been a contention by the court that it has been unsuccessful in getting PG&E to put the courthouse on its reconnection calendar, even after the court commissioned repairs that have been completed since April 20.

“The court awaits the PG&E reconnection to restore a permanent power source to the Family Justice Center Courthouse,” said Lisa Herrick, assistant executive officer and general counsel for the Superior Court. “The court has been working for weeks to try and re-establish the reconnection with PG&E, which remains the only barrier to reestablishing a permanent power source.”

Monday’s closure will mean morning calendars at the FJCC will be relocated or kept dark; the court plans to have a fourth generator up and running by mid-day, meaning that the afternoon calendars beginning at 1:30 p.m. are expected to start as scheduled.

For at least the morning, services involving the self-help center and clerk’s office and will again move to the downtown courthouse at 191 North First St. So will dependency matters, which will relocate to Department 1; family matters in departments 66, 71 and 74 will be respectively held at departments 3, 8 and 10.

Criminal matters normally held in departments 60 and 62 will move to the Hall of Justice at 190 West Hedding St., in departments 27 and 29, respectively.

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According to the court, the FJCC building’s primary connection to a PG&E transformer failed on March 4, and parts to replace the damaged equipment were estimated to take four to six weeks to arrive.

As a stopgap, a generator was installed March 7, and it experienced a failure that resulted in a 30-minute court closure April 3. Then on April 15, the generator failed again, prompting court officials to fully close the court for the first time and relocate hearings to nearby courthouses.

Another generator was installed, though its loud operating noise prompted complaints from surrounding residents and businesses, so the court powered down the building the following weekend, and ran it during the week. A minimum amount of power was generated to ensure that security and safety systems such as fire detection could still operate.

This past weekend, a third generator was installed, but it failed early Monday, prompting the newest court closure.

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.

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