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Starting Monday, March 7, we’re back in full swing…well, sort of.   Here’s what I want you to know. 

On Wednesday of this week, I received the Administrative Order from the Court of Appeals directing that we return to Phase V operations.  We’ll be fully operational, including in-person jury and bench trials.  The Order directed me to consult with Judge Sherri Koch of the District Court and local health officials regarding masks, social distancing, and screening questions.  The Order further directed me to issue an Administrative Order for our court.  My Administrative Order is attached. 

After meeting with County Health Department officials, Judge Koch and I agreed to the following:

  • The wearing of masks will be voluntary for all those fully vaccinated; those who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks when in the courthouse; but judges and magistrates will be permitted to order a witness to lower their masks for the purposes of testimony and identification.
  • There will be no social distancing requirements; however, judges and magistrates will be permitted to limit the concentration of individuals in a particular area when appropriate; it won’t be six feet, but we’ll still ask jurors to spread out during jury selection and during the trial.
  • Visitors will continue to be asked screening questions because anyone coming to the courthouse – including personnel – will not be permitted in the courthouse if they have been diagnosed and remain ill with Covid or are not fully vaccinated and have had close contact and are still within the quarantine period.

Please review my Administrative Order.  You will see it also addresses whether hearings will be conducted virtually or in person.  I am certain there will be confusion over the next few weeks with attorneys and litigants not knowing whether they should come to court, or not. The Order from the Court of Appeals was a follow up to an Order issued 10 days ago, so they should have been on notice.  But they don’t follow the Orders as closely as we do.  I anticipate a lot of calls.  Please be patient.

I have given priority to criminal cases and custody cases over the coming months. We have 900 more of these types of cases pending than we did at the beginning of the pandemic.  It will take time to dig out.  Yet, it’s just another opportunity for us to show why this is the best court in the State.  Thank you for all that you do.

James A. Bonifant, Administrative Judge