(03/19/2020)
Court dockets could be significantly slowed in county courthouses over the next month following an order issued by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tim Armstead on Monday.

Calhoun Prosecutor Shannon Johnson said, "Court will still be held in accordance with the Supreme Court's Administrative Order from yesterday. Many hearings have been continued, but any time sensitive case will still be heard."

Because of public safety concerns associated with the coronavirus, Armstead ordered the suspension of all criminal trials and jury orientations through April 10 unless a defendant’s right to a speedy trial would be violated with the postponement.

“Anytime you have a trial, you have not only the judges and the staff, but you have the attorneys, the litigants, the jurors, the witness. You have a number of people involved,” he said.

The order does allow for emergency hearings in abuse and neglect cases, domestic violence petitions and hearings for mental hygiene petitions. Time-sensitive criminal arraignments and preliminary hearings will also continue in county magistrate courts.

Armstead said in the area of emergency hearings, the Supreme Court is encouraging technology be used when possible to limit one-on-one contact.

“We’ve tried to encourage the extent which that could be done through either telephone conferencing or video conferencing, that that be followed as much as possible,” he said. “We realize that’s not always possible, but we do think there are a number of court proceedings that can be done by telephone or by video.”

Armstead added the court may extend the policy if necessary.


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