Last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court extended their restrictions of jury trials, grand juries, show cause dockets, judicial sales and in-person meetings of Kentucky Court of Justice committees, commissions, task forces and boards due to COVID-19.
The two orders postpone all jury trials until April 1, require grand juries to either be conducted remotely or suspended, postpone all show cause dockets until April 1, require judicial sales to be conducted either remotely or outside and in compliance with CDC guidelines and postpone all in person meetings of the KCOJ committees, commissions, task forces, boards and other administrative bodies until April 1.
Hopkins County Family Court Judge and Chief Circuit Judge Susan McClure said these orders for postponing had been extended throughout 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“This order has been in place since we first started seeing the beginnings of the pandemic,” she said. “We were actually in the middle of a jury term in circuit court, and we had already summoned the new panel to come in and report in April. That panel that was supposed to report last April has still not been able to report.”
McClure said the orders do not postpone everything.
“We are still having court cases,” she said. “We do those remotely.”
McClure said one of the main things postponed — the jury trials — normally brings in a panel of jurors from 75 to 100 people in circuit court and around 50 people in district court.
“They have to come in and sit in the courtroom, and there’s not room for them to socially distance,” said McClure.
The entire process of selecting a jury requires people to be in close contact with each other, said McClure.
“It was an issue mainly on practicalities,” said McClure. “People are not going to be comfortable coming in and sitting arm to arm with 80 to 100 people in there. We are fortunate to have nice facilities, but there’s not enough room to spread those out as needed.”
McClure said that the court has an obligation to protect the people that have to be at court.
“It is a little different than Lowes or Kroger or Walmart,” she said. “You are not compelled under penalty to be present. If you are a juror and you don’t show up, the judge could send the sheriff after you. There’s no volunteering choice in this matter.”
As with the majority of 2020, McClure and the rest of the Hopkins County Judicial entities are doing their work remotely, using different ways to communicate with all proper parties in court cases whether by Zoom, landline, cell phones or Skype.
“For example, if the district court does their arraignments, they have a video conferencing system set up with the jail so that the person in jail can be present,” said McClure.
Technology now allows the video conferences and phone conversations to be entered into court records as well, according to McClure.