How Butler County court systems are reacting to coronavirus concerns

As judges and court administrators continue to monitor coronavirus guidelines that might mean changes in the future, Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser took a step Friday to ensure the wheels of justice continue and precautions are taken.

Beginning Monday, the current session of the county grand jury will meet in the ceremonial courtroom that is more spacious than the close quarters in the regular grand jury room. Both are located in the Butler County Government Services Center.

“It will allow us to put some distance between the grand jury members,” Gmoser said, “and continue to get cases heard.”

In Ohio, a person must be indicted by a grand jury before being tried on a felony charge that can send them to prison for years. That is not the case for lesser or misdemeanor charges that are handled by municipal and area courts and carry at most a sentence in a local jail for a few months.

Cases must be heard by a grand jury after being bound from lower courts. In some cases the defendants remain incarcerated awaiting the process depending on the bond set and their ability to pay that bond.

Late Friday afternoon, Butler County Common Pleas Court issued a directive that largely does not include any changes to court operations:

“If you are a criminal defendant who is scheduled to appear in court for your criminal case, then you are still required to appear in person, unless the judge assigned to your case has excused your appearance,” it said.

“If you are scheduled to appear before the court in the near future other than as provided in the previous bullet point, contact your attorney for further instruction. If necessary, the court will make reasonable accommodations to reschedule appearances.”

The court said those scheduled for jury duty or meetings in the building in the near future should call ahead to confirm whether an appearance is still needed.

“If you have flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), please inform the Court Security Officers at the courthouse entrance, or inform the receptionist at the probation department reception window,” it said. “You may be denied access to the courthouse or probation department and be asked to contact your healthcare provider for details on how to proceed with proper medical are. In the alternative, if you enter the building, you may be required to wear a protective mask.”

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