- posted: Apr. 17, 2020
Today we had a video conference to address procedures in the near term.. This is unchartered territory. They have 23 judges all trying to come up with the best solution for both the self represented and attorneys.
They are using the Blue Jeans Application. It will be the only video format used by Johnson County. It was therefore suggested all counsel be familiar with its use. It is free to download. And has multiple options, including screen sharing. With the ability to have 25+ participants. They are also looking at the live streaming of hearings.
The clerks' office is running on a skeleton crew. They are backed up on processing filings. And asked for patience in filing delays and the responding to email inquiries. They are also open during business hours to accept phone calls.
The judges divisions. We do have an on duty judge that goes in and they rotate each week. Otherwise, all the divisions are working remotely. Monitoring their emails. So you can go ahead and send emails to the clerks if you need to set hearings. Which are being conducted remotely via the Blue Jeans app. For complicated cases, they suggest contacting the division ahead of time to discuss how these are going to proceed being handled remotely.
For exhibits, call the AA for each division ahead of time to determine how each division wants to handle. As of today, there is no set standard of which platform will be used to store and exchange exhibits, i.e. Google Drive, or One Drive, etc. They think Blue Jeans eventually may allow screen sharing which would permit the showing of courtroom exhibits.
For recordings, Blue Jeans app has the ability to make a record. The hearings would be recorded to make a record that the court reporter can then make a record if requested.
For depositions our court will be very careful about ordering anyone to appear face-to-face. They want parties to agree to a video deposition. And it will be up to the judge’s discretion if a standard deposition is requested. The parties should work it out and common sense should prevail with the understanding there not be face-to-face interaction at this time.
For limited actions dockets, It depends on the health officials and what they determine. And the resurgence of COVID-19 if we were to relax restrictions. He thinks it will be a phased introduction of people into the courthouse. First to roll out is the ability to file pleadings with the court. And allow the self represented access. Then, minor hearings. Its too early to tell when Ch. 61 dockets will be held. Since its a cattle call and there are a lot of people for these dockets it is being currently reviewed by the court pandemic response group. Bottom line, there is no answer at this point how weekly dockets will be held. This would not apply to trials, which can be scheduled individually.
For trial settings, right now the dates being set are early next year. Or, a year from now. No problem scheduling for next year, where they anticipate back to normal operations. A problem occurs when your existing trial date gets continued. They are leaving those rescheduled dates open. As they may have to address criminal cases first. If you do have to set for trial in a scheduling order, they recommend picking a date for next year.
For jury trials, they do not know when they will resume. Can’t envision a gathering of a jury pool at this time. Also, there will be a backlog of criminal cases that will need to be satisfied first. Requiring civil judges to participate. Which means there will be a wholesale rescheduling of civil jury trial cases presently scheduled. It is premature to determine the extent of the delay at this time. Again,to be determined at a later date, not with their not likely to be any civil jury trials this Summer.
As to the new courthouse, it is deemed essential, so construction continuing. However, having labor and materials issues. Right now, opening scheduled as planned. The new courthouse will have videoconferencing capabilities. Each judge’s chambers will have a room with video capabilities. They all thought this is a “new normal” where video conferencing will continue when they move into the new courthouse. Which will save travel time and open access to the courthouse, as they are essentially operating 24/7.
Finally, they are losing their law clerks. Since the county has lost revenue, it will not be filling any vacancies for their open clerk positions.