written by Marianna Michael
On November 20, 2020, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued two new Administrative Orders regarding hearings. Orders 2020-71 and 2020-72 replace Administrative Orders 2020-63 and 2020-64 which were published in early November as guidance to courts in “red zone” counties. With nearly each of Kentucky’s 120 counties at or near “red zone” status, the Court is again mandating many of the restrictions imposed earlier this summer.
- Entrance to court facilities is limited to: (i) attorneys, parties, witnesses, jurors, domestic violence advocates, and other persons scheduled to appear at in-person hearings; (ii) individuals seeking emergency protective orders, interpersonal orders, emergency custody orders, and involuntary commitments; (iii) individuals attending judicial sales; (iv) individuals who have scheduled an appointment to access a physical case file; and (v) individuals with appointments for driver’s license services; and (vii) individuals reporting for scheduled drug tests.
- Courts will continue to have signage reiterating proper COVID procedures prior to entering buildings and upon entering the facilities.
- Individuals not permitted into Kentucky Court of Justice (“KCOJ”) facilities, but still required to make payment or report to or appear before the court, will be provided with a phone number or email address and must make arrangements to reschedule, appear remotely, or otherwise complete their business to avoid possible adverse action being taken by the court.
- Individuals are prohibited from bringing purses or other similarly enclosed bags into court facilities, unless items in the bag are medically necessary. Items necessary for business before the court should be carried by hand or brought in an open container allowing for visual inspection.
- All civil and criminal jury trials shall be postponed until February 1, 2021, with in-custody criminal trials taking priority over all other matters.
- Courts shall hear civil and criminal matters using telephonic and video technology, with in-person hearings being held for emergency and time-sensitive matters including but not limited to, domestic violence hearings, emergency custody hearings, temporary child support hearings, evidentiary hearings in criminal cases, in-custody arraignments, in-custody preliminary hearings under RCr 3.10, in custody bond motions, in-custody probation violation hearings, and in-custody juvenile detention hearings.
- Grand jury proceedings shall be conducted remotely via available telephonic or video technology subject to the applicable Rules of Criminal Procedure.
- All residential and commercial eviction hearings shall proceed subject to various considerations.
- All show cause dockets for payment of fines and court costs shall be rescheduled no sooner than February 1, 2021.
- Judges should continue to issue summonses or notices to appear in lieu of bench warrants, unless the judge has good cause to believe a defendant will not appear voluntarily upon a summons or notice to appear.
- Night traffic courts in Jefferson County are suspended until further notice.
- Court orders requiring remote attendance of a party or the party’s counsel shall have the same effect as if requiring in-person attendance. Failure to appear remotely as ordered by a court may be grounds for sanctions.
- Attorneys should continue to prepare and litigate cases, including providing discovery, negotiating possible resolutions, filing motions, and conducting investigations, to minimize delay in bringing cases to trial or resolution to the extent possible.
Office of Circuit Court Clerk
- All filings must be mailed, eFiled or conventionally filed using a drop-box outside the judicial facility.
- Payments for court costs, fines, fees, and restitution can be made by money order mailed to the circuit clerk’s office or by cash or credit card by calling the local circuit clerk’s office. Pre-payable citations can be paid online through ePay at kycourts.gov.
- Individuals posting bond should contact the local circuit clerk’s office for further instruction.
- Driver’s licenses, permits and identification cards that expire or are lost or stolen from March 1, 2020 through Feb. 28, 2021, must be renewed through the remote application process provided by the Office of Circuit Court Clerk in the county in which the cardholder resides, as provided in Transportation Cabinet Official Order 112301.
- In-person appointments for individuals who need a new driver’s license, permit, identification card, or commercial driver’s license must schedule with the Office of Circuit Court Clerk and individuals who need in-person appointments for permit testing and road testing must schedule through the Kentucky State Police.
- All KCOJ employees who can telework, should do so.
- Elected officials must determine appropriate in-person staffing based on various factors and submit staffing plans to the Human Resources Department at the Administrative Office of the Courts to ensure appropriate tracking of employees’ work hours.
- Judges and circuit court clerks must collaborate to ensure there is adequate staff to prepare for and cover court dockets or other proceedings.
General Health and Safety Protocols for KCOJ Employees and Officials
- All KCOJ officials are required to follow social distancing protocols and wear facial coverings while interacting with co-workers or in common areas of the building.
- Each chief circuit judge must take steps to ensure that KCOJ employees and members of the public exercise appropriate social distancing in any court facility occupied by the KCOJ within their circuit. The Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”) Director or designee must take steps to ensure that AOC employees and members of the public exercise appropriate social distancing in all AOC offices, as well.
- In mixed-use facilities, the chief circuit judge is responsible for ensuring appropriate social distancing practices in the space occupied by the KCOJ, including the common areas.
- Any common area that cannot be configured to maintain appropriate social distancing must be closed.
- To the extent possible, waiting lines or rooms should be eliminated through the use of appointments or other remote services. Areas should be demarked with six-foot spacing to maintain appropriate social distancing between individuals who are not members of the same household unit.
- Each chief circuit judge and the AOC Director or designee must ensure that proper arrangements are made for cleaning and disinfecting of the court facilities in their circuit and all AOC offices, consistent with the KCOJ COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements.
As with previous orders, the Orders encourage chief district and chief circuit judges to develop local plans and enter local court rules regarding any additional restrictions or changes in local procedure, consistent with the Order. The Order is effective beginning November 30, 2020 until further guidance is published.