Special to The SUN
Editor’s note: The order printed below has been edited for length.
An administrative order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak was released Monday by Chief Judge Jeffrey Wilson regarding court operations in the Sixth Judicial District, which includes La Plata, San Juan and Archuleta counties.
Whereas, the emergence of the COVID-19 virus has created a public health emergency, the courts of the Sixth Judicial District shall take all measures reasonably necessary to protect the health of the public, litigants, court staff and probation staff from the COVID-19 virus. It is therefore ordered that:
Effective immediately and continuing through and including April 3, the courts, including the probation offices, shall only hear cases that directly affect public safety. Such cases include:
1. Petitions for temporary civil protection orders and permanent protection order hearings;
2. Petitions for temporary emergency risk protection orders and hearings on emergency risk protection orders;
3. First appearance advisements for incarcerated persons and the initial setting of bail;
4. Revocation hearings on complaints to revoke probation involving an incarcerated defendant;
5. Proceedings necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, including bond-related matters and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals;
6. Detention hearings for juvenile delinquency cases;
7. Shelter hearings in dependency and neglect cases or other juvenile proceedings;
8. Petitions for appointment of an emergency guardian and/or special conservator;
9. Hearings on motions to restrict parenting time and parental abduction prevention;
10. Emergency mental health proceedings;
11. Other proceedings deemed necessary by Wilson to prevent a substantial risk of imminent financial hardship or imminent risk to the health, safety or welfare of an individual or members of the community.
There shall be no jury trials held in the 6th Judicial District unless imminent speedy trial issues exist or exceptional circumstances apply. 17CR343, the People of the Sate of Colorado vs. Mark Redwine, shall remain set for status conference on March 19 to determine its status.
The clerk’s offices and probation office shall operate on minimal staffing. The attorneys and the public are therefore encouraged to communicate with court staff via email or telephone to avoid any unnecessary personal appearances at any courthouse in the Sixth Judicial District.
The following provisions are effective April 6 through and including May 15:
All jury trials, except criminal trials with speedy trial issues or extraordinary circumstances, are to be reset for trial sometime after May 15. The court to which such case is assigned shall schedule a telephone setting conference with counsel or, if pro se, the parties to reset the case for trial.
For any jury trials that do occur, the jury commissioner has full authority to excuse individuals from jury service if they have a heart condition, diabetes, lung disease, are 60 years of age or older or suffer from other serious health conditions pursuant to currently established policies.
Judges conducting jury trials during the pendency of this order shall use all appropriate methods of limiting the number of jurors who are required to appear at the same time, including calling the jury panels to court in waves and using multiple courtrooms for jury selection to maintain appropriate social distancing.
Judges shall limit the number of potential jurors in any one room in any courthouse of the Sixth Judicial District to 50. Judges shall be allowed to limit the number of spectators attending trials and hearings to ensure individuals in the galleries of their courtrooms maintain appropriate social distance.
Alternatives to physical appearance in court
For all evidentiary hearings and for civil trials, the standard practice shall be that all witnesses shall testify by telephone. Upon request of a party, the judge hearing a case may allow in-person testimony. Due to the Confrontation Clauses of the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 16 of Article II of the Colorado Constitution, this paragraph shall not apply to criminal trials.
For all criminal cases where the defendants are in custody, all appearances that can be conducted via telephone or video conference shall be so conducted.
For all criminal docket day appearances, the judge of each court shall establish procedures that will maximize the ability of criminal defendants to appear by telephone in all appropriate cases.
Probation officers are to limit nonessential probationer traffic in the courthouse. Until further notified, face-to-face contact standards are modified to include the use of telephones and email communication in lieu of having the probationer report to the courthouse for appointments. This includes minimum-, medium- and maximum-risk level probationers. Presentence investigation report appointments and alcohol evaluation appointments may also be conducted through telephone, email or other means of technology.