Drop Box

A drop box now sits in the foyer of the Hopkins County Judicial Center for attorneys to leave paperwork. Only required and emergency hearings are being conducted for the moment because of the coronavirus.

Tanya Bowman is on the B team these days. But she’s OK with that.

“We want to protect the employees whom we love dearly,” the Hopkins County Circuit Court Clerk said Thursday.

Bowman’s 19-person staff divided into A and B teams last Friday, as a precaution against the coronavirus. Team A is on duty at the Judicial Center this week, with Chief Deputy Karen Burns in charge. Bowman’s team will work next week.

“If you have one person who’s sick, that wipes out the entire team,” Bowman explained from her home. That’s because people in close contact with potential COVID-19 cases face a probable 14-day quarantine.

Bowman closed her office to the general public Monday. Not even judges can go there now.

“We want to avoid cross-contamination,” Bowman said.

Bowman set up a drop box in the foyer of the Judicial Center last weekend for attorneys to file motions and pleadings. Some Hopkins County attorneys were ready for that, even if they didn’t expect a pandemic.

“Several months ago, we switched our business to servers so we can print remotely,“ Natasha Little said Thursday. “We’re very thankful that we did.”

She and husband Marcus locked up their Little Law Office on East Broadway several days ago. As of Thursday night, all lawyers in Kentucky must work from home under an order from Governor Andy Beshear restricting “non-life-sustaining” businesses.

“I’ve noticed a decline in clients,” Little added, as COVID-19 concern has grown in recent weeks. “Perhaps it’s with the courts not hearing cases.”

The security team at the Judicial Center has noticed that, too.

“It’s been down a little,” chief bailiff Danny Hopper said Thursday.

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. first suspended all civil cases and many criminal cases until Friday, April 10. On Thursday, Minton extended that suspension for two more weeks.

“We’re having to find some creative ways of doing things,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Hannah Kington-Jarvis said Thursday.

But Bowman said emergency court hearings still can be conducted by computer or phone. And Hopkins County judges have long used the “video court” option to arraign suspects inside the county jail.

“There are still cases that are being heard telephonically and by video,” Kington-Jarvis said.

She noted that the Chief Justice’s suspension has delayed criminal sentencings. For instance, Danny and Dustin Massey were scheduled to be sentenced this week in a White Plains kidnapping case. Their new sentencing date is Monday, April 27.

One thing that apparently has not changed is the process for selecting a replacement for retired Hopkins County Circuit Judge James Brantley. The Kentucky Court of Justice website still shows that the deadline for submitting a completed questionnaire is Monday.

Bowman noted court fines can be paid by leaving them in the drop box or by calling her office. An online option is www.kycourts.gov/payments.