In-person court proceedings put on hold

Published 10:37 am Monday, March 16, 2020

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By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

In-person court proceedings are being suspended in Alabama, with some exceptions, from March 16 to April 16, by order of the Alabama Supreme court.

The administrative order from the court came after President Donald Trump announced a national emergency, and Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have now been several confirmed cases of the virus in Alabama.

“The local and state courts of the State of Alabama are open and will remain open under all circumstances, subject to the provisions of this order,” the Alabama Supreme Court’s administrative order stated.

Those with questions are encouraged to call the court in which their case is being heard.

Using other means of meeting was encouraged.

“All judges and court clerks are urged to limit in-person courtroom contact as much

as possible by utilizing available technologies, including electronic filing, teleconferencing and videoconferencing,” the order stated. “Any Alabama state or local rule, criminal or civil, that impedes a judge’s or court clerk’s ability to utilize available technologies to limit in-person contact is suspended until April 16, 2020. This order expressly does not prohibit court proceedings by telephone, video, teleconferencing, or other means that do not involve in- person contact. This order does not affect courts’ consideration of matters that can be resolved without in-person proceedings. Any deadlines that are set by or subject to regulation by this Court that are set to expire between March 16, 2020 and April 16, 2020, are hereby extended to April 20, 2020. This Court cannot extend any statutory period of repose or statute

of limitations period.”

However, the order does list exceptions where in person court proceedings could still be held. These included:

  • “Proceedings necessary to protect constitutional rights of criminal defendants, including bond-related matters and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals.
  • Civil and criminal jury trials that are in progress as of March 13, 2020.
  • Proceedings related to protection from abuse.
  • Proceedings related to emergency child custody and protection orders.
  • Department of Human Resources emergency matters related to child protection.
  • Proceedings related to petitions for temporary injunctive relief.
  • Proceedings related to emergency mental health orders.
  • Proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons.
  • Proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Any emergent proceeding as needed by law enforcement.
  • Other exceptions as approved by the Chief Justice.”

According to the order, “The presiding judge or the designee of the presiding judge of each judicial circuit is authorized to determine the manner in which in- person court proceedings for the exceptions listed above are to be conducted.”