If you had or have a court date coming up, you’ll probably want to check with your attorney and or/with the court about the status of your hearing.
The Missouri Supreme Court issued an administrative order that takes effect May 16 allowing for some in-person court hearings to resume as part of Gov. Mike Parson’s Show Me Strong Recovery order.
“Only the most critical in-person proceedings will be held, with occupancy in the courtroom limited to 10 or less people whenever possible,” the order states.
Attorneys who believe their cases to be critical enough to hold in-person hearings are asked to notify the court.
Social distancing guidelines will remain in place for courtroom staff, attorneys, parties in cases and witnesses.
“The challenge will be to hold hearings while complying with social distancing restrictions which allow only 14 people in a courtroom at a time, including the judge and court staff,” Christian County Presiding Judge Laura Johnson said. “It is not unusual on a regular day for a courtroom to have 100 people in it at any given time.”
In order to keep under the occupancy restriction, the judge said that some unique procedures may have to be developed.
“We may have to ask people to line up outside or wait in their cars until their case can be called. It is going to be a little confusing and the participants and attorneys will have to be patient as we work out the best system,” Johnson said.
Everyone who enters a court building will have their temperature screened before they are allowed inside. Anyone who enters a courtroom must wear face masks or coverings, and masks will be issued to those who do not bring their own.
Jury trials will not be held. Extra cleaning and disinfecting work will be done throughout each day that the courthouses are open.
Additionally, some cases will move by other means.
“We will also continue to hold telephone and video hearings to keep cases moving,” Johnson said.
The new order also takes into account COVID-19 public health orders in Ozark, where the 38th Judicial Circuit is housed in the Christian County Circuit Court building and the Christian County Justice Center. Ozark’s local order allows limited occupancy of “all publicly accessible locations” at 50 percent or less of a building’s authorized volume by fire code.