Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger S. Burdick issued an order Friday providing state courts in every Idaho county guidance on how courts should proceed during the novel coronavirus emergency between Monday and April 10.
The order excused personal appearances in all civil matters and some criminal matters with the exception of emergency matters before the court, child protection hearings, domestic violence hearings and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases.
Courts should make reasonable attempts to reschedule all criminal trials, subject to a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, the order said.
Small claims, eviction, juvenile, probate, traffic and guardianship cases that are not emergency matters or hearings required by statute or court rule to be held shall be continued, the order said.
Attendance in courtrooms should be limited to attorneys, parties, jurors and necessary witnesses for civil cases.
In criminal cases not including trials, the order suggests only attorneys, parties, victims and necessary witnesses attend. Media access is up to the presiding judge, the order said.
Any case where the attorney or a party is ill or in a high risk category shall be rescheduled. In-custody defendants who are symptomatic will not be transported to the courthouse, the order said.
The 21-day preliminary hearing requirement for out-of-custody defendants is waived by Friday’s order.
All show cause dockets for payment for fines and court costs within the time frame are to be continued 60 days.
Existing jury panels may be extended at the discretion of the district’s administrative judge.
Local clerks are encouraged to use drop boxes for conventionally filed documents. Attorneys are already required to file their documents electronically, the order said.
Signs required by the Idaho Supreme Court’s order are posted on the entrances to the Nez Perce County Courthouse, which spell out guidelines for those entering.
People with legitimate court business but who are ill or caring for someone who is ill or who are in a high-risk category are advised to stay home and request a continuance by calling the local court clerk.
Elected court clerks are urged to appoint one or more point persons to process the continuance requests and notify the appropriate judge and attorneys in cases where the party is ill, caring for someone who is ill or is in a high risk category.
The order also encourages all courts to provide sanitation materials at all courthouse entrances and counsel tables.
2nd District Court and Nez Perce County Magistrate Court
The second floor of the Nez Perce County Courthouse, where most of the courtrooms are located, is closed to the general public, 2nd District Judge Jay Gaskill said.
“Everything we can do, we’ll do by telephone,” Gaskill said. “Nonessential hearings will be done by telephone and we will continue what we can.”
Courts will still hear changes of pleas, evidentiary preliminary hearings and trials in person, Gaskill said. The changes of pleas may be spread out to avoid large numbers of people in the courtroom at a time.
There will be more summons issued rather than arrest warrants, Gaskill said.
Arraignments in district court will likely be done by telephone.
Pretrial release will be more likely as law enforcement and the courts give court dates rather than making arrests in cases where the alleged perpetrator is not deemed to be a risk to public safety.
Court staff were scrambling Monday to implement the changes, Gaskill said. Local attorneys were being told to meet with clients in advance and directed to keep clients away from attending court where their presence was not necessary.
Judges will also review bonds by telephone at an attorney’s request because the delays could mean those incarcerated who could not post bond may end up in jail longer than what was likely when their bonds were set.
Nez Perce County Prosecutor’s Office
The Nez Perce County Prosecutor’s Office will be closed to the public starting today, Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman said.
Phone lines to the prosecutor’s office will still be open for calls. All meetings with victims and witnesses will be rescheduled when possible or done over the phone for the next few weeks, Coleman said.
“The overall function and prosecution of cases will continue normally,” Coleman said. “Prosecutors will continue to appear at all required court hearings.
“We will continue to work closely with the courts and defense bar to make reasonable accommodations in rescheduling nonessential court appearances,” Coleman added. “The criminal justice system is expected to function, and my office will process and prosecute criminal cases as usual.”
Criminal pre-trials and preliminary hearings scheduled for this week are currently scheduled to go forward, Coleman said.
Lewiston Police Department
Lewiston Police Department has suspended all station tours, ride-alongs and its annual Citizens Police Academy until further notice, Lewiston Public Information Officer Carol Mauer said.
Because of social distancing recommendations, police officers have been instructed to stay at least 6 feet away from others and only make hands-on arrests when absolutely necessary, Mauer said.
There are no planned wardrobe changes for Lewiston police officers, but the department is investigating safety glasses, Mauer said.
“If a person does not pose an immediate threat to the public, they may be cited and released or issued a summons,” Mauer said citing an Idaho Supreme Court order issued Friday. “Everything is situational and the department wants to continue encouraging members of the community to report crimes.”
Lewiston Police are running at normal personnel capacity and exploring adjustments, Mauer said.
Nez Perce County Jail
Nez Perce County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez suspended all voluntary programs and visitation at the Nez Perce County Jail on Monday until further notice.
The jail staff has been working with medical staff for the last three weeks on how to handle the coronavirus should it appear in the jail.
While visitors to the jail do not have contact with inmates, the jail visitations were suspended Monday, Rodriguez said. Staff have been and continue to disinfect the areas where visitors from the outside enter the jail and sheriff’s office.
“We have a pretty good plan to protect people coming inside the facility,” Rodriguez said. “We may have to be more restrictive later.”
New inmates have their temperatures taken by staff. Should an inmate show any of the symptoms of COVID-19, the jail has different housing pods that inmates could be isolated at where medical staff could keep an eye on them, Rodriguez said.
Jail and sheriff’s office staff are being told not to come to work if they are sick. If they do come to work ill, they are sent home, Rodriguez said.
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