A directive came from Butler County Common Pleas Court last week cancelling jury trials for 30 days and calling for judges, prosecutors and attorneys to work together to move as many cases as possible without requiring a court appearance due to coronavirus concerns, but courtrooms will remain open.
Court administration is working to a create video arraignment system, possibly using a visiting judge courtroom on the fourth floor of the court wing so that inmates can remain in the county jail for initial court appearances, according to court administrator Wayne Gilkison. Video arraignments do happen once a week in county area courts, but not in the common pleas court.
Judges are restricting dockets for essential cases, such as pleas and sentencing, he said. That means there will be less spectators and defendants in the courtroom.
“But we are are not limiting people who can attend or closing the courtrooms,” Gilkison said.
On Thursday, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor recommended that the courts take steps that would reduce the foot traffic in the buildings. Those include using lower bonds or summons instead of arrests to minimize jail populations, avoiding seating juries, refraining from issuing warrants for non-violent misdemeanors or traffic violations and changing probation and other community control to minimize face-to-face meetings.
O’Connor said that courts must remain open to address emergency and time-sensitive matters. She announced she’ll release $4 million for courts to purchase teleconference equipment, and she recommended that evictions proceedings be suspended during the pandemic.
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