Emergency drills and exercises are standard practice for hospitals, schools, hotels and many other businesses. But what happens if an emergency — anything from an earthquake to a fire to an envelope filled with what may be anthrax — strikes a courthouse?
“The court must be available when parties need judicial intervention,” said Kirk Nakamura, presiding judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Orange. “For example, abused spouses, the elderly and others need restraining orders. The court also may be called on to issue gun violence restraining orders under new laws.
“Moreover, those accused of crimes must be given their constitutionally mandated right to a speedy trial,” Nakamura added.
For that reason, Cal State Fullerton is working in collaboration with the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, to enact an emergency exercise using the campus’s emergency operations center (EOC) as an emergency courtroom.
On Oct. 29, from 8 a.m. to noon, Operation Mobile Justice will “be in session.” The court will assemble at the university’s EOC, which will have been set up in advance as an emergency courtroom. During the exercise, the commissioner will hear time-sensitive matters according to civil operations standard operating procedures.
To make the experience as realistic as possible, Superior Court Commissioner Carmen R. Luege, will be presented with previous adjudicated court cases but the names of those in the cases will be changed. As part of the drill, Cal State Fullerton students will portray those involved in the ‘cases.’
“The goal, for us and the court, is to simulate as closely as possible, what would be needed during a real event,” said Sue Fisher, emergency management coordinator with University Police. “We are looking at logistics, security, systems — all these areas need to be tested. In the event of a real emergency, if we have to activate this scenario, we want to be well prepared.”
Following the emergency exercise, there will be a debrief and evaluation of the day’s activities.
“This exercise tests a variety of skills and is fairly standard practice in emergency management,” said Fisher. “The Orange County Superior Court and Cal State Fullerton signed an agreement to share facilities so this exercise will test that.”