In-person Escambia County court proceedings resume
Court proceedings have resumed at the Escambia County Courthouse, Circuit Judge David Jordan said.
The Alabama Supreme Court on May 13 issued an administrative order (No. 7) that effectively resumes in-person hearings in the circuit, district and juvenile courts of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Jordan said in an email to the local bar association.
“All matters set by prior order and dockets set on the 2020 court calendars shall proceed as scheduled,” Jordan wrote. “To avoid any confusion, please note that the Order, while stating that ‘… [jury] trials shall remain suspended until September 14, 2020,’ does not say that jury trials will resume on September 14.
“It means that jury trials remain suspended at least until September 14,” he said.
Jordan said rules have been formulated for each courtroom to comply with the guidelines that govern the safety of all as proceedings resume.
“We have formulated rules for each courtroom that will be enforced,” he said. “We will limit the number of people allowed in a particular courtroom per the governor’s Safer at Home Order and the CDC guidelines. Signs will be posted outside the courtrooms advising all of rules and availability of PPE, including face coverings, gloves and hand sanitizer. Use of PPE will not be required in the courtrooms, but will be encouraged.
“If you, your clients, or witnesses want to wear masks, gloves, etc. that is fine,” he said. “A witness may be asked to pull a mask down from their mouth if a judge and/or court reporter or attorney can’t understand him/her.”
Jordan said that in courtroom No. 1, some chairs are marked off with blue tape to denote the chair is not to be used.
“Blue tape has been used to mark where the public shall sit on the benches,” he said. “The taped spaces are at least six feet apart. Please instruct those individuals you bring into court, whether parties, witnesses, family members, etc., to adhere to the social distancing measures. If anyone will not adhere to our rules, i.e. social distancing, etc. we may remove them from the courtroom.”
Jordan said the majority of chairs in courtroom No. 2 have been removed to promote social distancing. Please help us by instructing your clients and their family members, witnesses, etc. not to move the chairs and defeat our efforts to promote safety, he said.
Jordan said one issue in regard to social distancing includes a party needing to speak with his or her attorney out of earshot.
“The judges will not interfere with that right, and we’ll have to proceed together to work those issues out,” he said. “We also realize there will be an issue with family groups who reside in the same household. They’ll want to sit together. Those issues will have to be addressed case by case and you should seek guidance on such from the judge on the case.”
Jordan said the county has agreed to insure the courtrooms are sanitized frequently. The benches, chairs will be wiped down after use.
“We will attempt to shorten court days – adjourn by 3:30 p.m., for example – to allow the county employees adequate time for cleaning,” he said.