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What Do I Need To Know If I Go To Pobate Court In Santa Clara County?

If you are attending Probate Court in Santa Clara County, the courthouse is located at 191 North First Street in San Jose.  Parking can be difficult so allow plenty of time for parking.  There is a public parking garage near the courthouse if you are unable to find street parking.  If you are able to find street parking, it will be metered parking.  Once you make it to the court house, you will need to pass through security.  Take the elevator to the fourth floor.  The Probate Court is currently held in Department 12.  

On the wall opposite of the double doors to the courtroom is a bulletin board.  The day's calendar is hung on the bulletin board.  For each calendar session, there is a listing of the probate cases to be heard in that session.  On the sheet of paper hanging on the bulletin board for the 9:00 calendar, there will be a  listing of cases that includes the line number, time, case number, name of the case and the description of the subject of the hearing.  Be sure to find your line number assigned to your case.  If there are cases the judge has tentatively granted, these cases will be listed on a preapproved list.  

The courtroom may be locked.  The doors generally unlock about 5 minutes prior to the hearing start time.   When the bailiff opens the door, find a seat.  The first rows on the right hand side have a reserved sign so don't sit here.  Sit anywhere else in the multiple rows of chairs behind the wooden wall.  

Please make sure any electronic devices are silenced or turned off.   Recording is prohibited in the courtroom.

The current judge of the Santa Clara County Probate Division is Judge Rise Jones Pichon.  She will enter the courtroom once it is called to order.  Judge Pichon calls the preapproved cases first.  If you want the matter heard, you will have the opportunity to let Judge Pichon know.  If there are no objections to a preapproved case, Judge Pichon will hand the signed order to the bailiff so the order can be picked up.  The orders can be taken to the probate filing clerks on the first floor so they can be filed.  

The remaining cases are generally taken in order of their line numbers.  The case is called and the parties make their way to the tables on the other side of the partition.  The petitioners table is on the right hand side and the respondents table is on the left hand side.  Generally, the judge will hear from the petitioner first.  You should be prepared with a short summary or argument.  The respondent will have their opportunity to respond.  Judge Pichon will ask questions if she feels she needs clarification or additional information.  Each case will generally take 3-5 minutes.  The judge will then make a decision such as granting or denying the petition or setting the next hearing.  You can leave the courtroom after your case is heard.

These are generally status hearings.  This is not a trial.  This is merely a time for the judge to see if there is opposition to the petition and check in with the case.  For some cases, such as a petition to remove the trustee, the case will be adjudicated at trial.  For other type of cases such as an uncontested spousal property petition, the judge may be able to make a decision at the initial hearing.  

If you have the opportunity I recommend attending a court session at least once prior to your court date.  This will allow you to see how Judge Pichon controls her courtroom and manages the cases.  

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