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Cole County Courthouse limits proceedings after employee tests positive for COVID-19

August 26, 2020 at 4:55 p.m. | Updated August 27, 2020 at 10:34 a.m.
Cole County Courthouse personnel are silhouetted against Wednesday's afternoon sky as they stand on the courthouse steps while security officer Rob Record takes the temperature of Katie Doman before she enters the building.

The News Tribune is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to the health and safety of our community.

Cole County Courthouse officials were informed Tuesday evening an employee at the courthouse has tested positive for COVID-19.

Cole County judges announced Wednesday morning the courthouse is returning to its policy of no in-person proceedings, as it did shortly after the pandemic began in March.

According to Missouri Supreme Court directives, "if any court employee, bailiff, or other court personnel currently working in a court facility tests positive for COVID-19, the presiding or chief judge shall move that court facility to Operating Phase One or Zero."'

Under Phase One, the court is to "consider resuming only the most critical in-person proceedings and restrict jury proceedings to only the most extraordinary, pressing, and urgent cases."

Presiding Judge Pat Joyce said the employee diagnosed with COVID-19 did not contract it from their work or interactions at the courthouse. She also said the mandatory mask requirement along with physical distancing measures and barriers put in courtrooms and courthouse, offices has helped to keep the coronavirus out of the courthouse and they will stay in place until further notice.

To maintain court operations and reduce exposure to court employees, attorneys and parties who have court proceedings, the court will give priority to:

- Bond and release hearings for adult defendants.

- Detention and protective custody hearings for juveniles.

- Orders of protection cases.

- Emergency child custody cases.

- Petitions for temporary restraining orders or other forms of injunctive relief.

- Emergency mental health orders.

- Emergency guardianship and conservatorship proceedings in probate.

- Proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Oral arguments regarding time-sensitive matters that cannot be handled by phone or video conference.

Most matters will be continued to a future date and the courthouse will stay at Phase One status for two weeks, Joyce said.

Individuals with pending court cases are urged to check Case.net (courts.mo.gov/casenet) for new court dates and to sign up for "Track This Case" to get text message updates about their case.

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Those who have attorneys should contact their attorneys to determine if they need to go to court on a scheduled date. Those without an attorney may contact the Cole County Circuit Clerk's Office to determine if they need to appear in person.

Filing deadlines are not suspended, as the e-filing system will remain in full operation.

Order of protection forms may be accessed online. Anyone needing an order of protection or continuance is encouraged to submit the form by email to [email protected]

Joyce urged anyone who needs to contact the Cole County Circuit Clerk's Office to do so via email when possible, using the email address [email protected] and include a case number when possible. Those without access to email may call 573-634-9171.

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