Butler County courts dropping COVID-19 precautions ahead of busy summer of cases

Butler County Common Pleas Court is ramping up for a busy summer of trials after a coronavirus slowdown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Butler County Common Pleas Court is ramping up for a busy summer of trials after a coronavirus slowdown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

In March 2020, coronavirus concerns coupled with stay-at-home orders put much of court systems on hold or at least slowed down the pace.

But Butler County Common Pleas Court continued to move forward, with the exception of jury trials. Those trails will ramp up soon as the courts changed their rules about COVID-19 precautions.

Visitors are no longer required to wear masks in the court wing. Deputies at the security checkpoint will continue to monitor the the temperature of people entering with an infrared camera installed last year, but unless someone also shows symptoms of illness, they will admitted.

Concerns about keeping a pool of potential jurors safe necessitated postponing some trials through the spring months 2020, but by the end of July last year, a courtroom specially out fitted with Plexiglass was ready for the first jury trial.

ExploreButler County courts changing to ramp up activity, including new machine

Both civil and criminal trials took place over the fall and winter, but not at a regular pace. With the advent of the vaccine, a drop in coronavirus cases and the lifting of a mask mandate, litigation in the court wing is ramping up.

“It’s going to be a busy summer,” said court administrator Wayne Gilkison.

Last month in a two-week period, four jury trials were held in judges’ regular courtrooms.

Gilkison said it was always up to the judge to determine if the courtroom specially fitted for coronavirus concerns was used, and in some cases, jurors indicated it felt a bit claustrophobic. They opted to wear masks and use hand sanitizer and stay in the standard courtrooms.

Gilkison said the special coronavirus safety fittings will be stored in case they are needed in the future.

“We just don’t know what will happen in the future,” he said.

ExploreButler County preparing for first criminal trial since coronavirus slowdown began

Gilkison said it is a return to some normalcy with plenty of jury trials coming up in the next few months.

“From November (2020) to February (2021), when we were in a really bad spot because of the virus limitations, we kept a master list of scheduled jury trials and the judges worked together so the courtroom was not over-booked,” Gilkison said.

He said now, a jury trial could be held in all seven common pleas courtrooms at the same time.

“It would be pretty busy, but it could happen,” Gilkison said.

In Warren County, judges decided masks were no longer required in the courthouse beginning May 20. The new order says the masks are permitted, but must be removed at the direction of judges. It also says that people with fever or experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 should not enter the courtroom.

Explore2 shot at apartment complex in Hamilton

In Other News