No aspect of life has been untouched by the coronavirus pandemic and that includes the local court system.
One day after the Oneida County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution proclaiming a local public health emergency, Branch II judge Michael Bloom issued an order declaring "emergency temporary measures" in regard to local court operations.
The order, released Wednesday, was to go into effect immediately, and run through June 1 "or until further order of the court."
"On March 17, 2020, the Secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services issued Emergency Order #5, which imposes a statewide moratorium on mass gatherings of ten (10) people or more to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Bloom wrote in the order. "Emergency Order #5 expressly exempts from its requirements, among other things, facilities operated by the Wisconsin Court System."
Bloom said he issued the order, in an effort to minimize large gatherings of people having close contact in the Oneida County Courthouse, "to protect the health and safety of the litigants, judges, court staff and security, attorneys, jurors, other participants in court proceedings, and all other citizens" that may be in the courthouse.
The order noted the measures were "Emergency and Temporary."
The order was broken into eight categories.
1. Mandatory court proceedings will continue as scheduled and as required by law, including:
Bail hearings for individuals arrested for crimes and held in custody.
Hearings in children's and juvenile court subject to time limits under Chapter 48 or Chapter 938.
Involuntary commitment hearings subject to time limits under Chapter 51.
Injunction hearings subject to time limits under Chapter 813.
Guardianship and protective placement hearings subject to time limits under Chapter 54 and Chapter 55.
Criminal jury trials mandated by the U.S. or Wisconsin Constitutions or by the Wisconsin Statutes.
Any other court hearting subject to mandatory time limits under the Wisconsin Statutes.
2. All jury trials (other than criminal jury trials mandated by the U.S. or Wisconsin Constitutions or by the Wisconsin Statutes) from the date of this Order through June 1, 2020, shall be adjourned.
3. All court hearings (other than jury trials) that are already on the Court's calendar from the date of this Order through June 1, 2020, will not be affirmatively removed from the calendar by the court. However:
The Court strongly encourages all parties to make arrangements for, and the Court will liberally grant requests for, telephone and videos appearances by attorneys, litigants and witnesses, in all cases where such measures are practicable, subject to prior approval of the assigned judge.
The Court will liberally grant such requests for continuances of cases, with the prior approval of the assigned judge.
4. Criminal intake will continue to be held as scheduled, with the understanding that the District Attorney's Office and the Defense Bar are strongly encouraged to seek continuances in appropriate cases, consistent with Victim's Rights under Chapter 950, and subject to the prior approval of the assigned judge or the judicial assistant.
5. Criminal pretrial conference sessions on Tuesday afternoons will continue to be held as scheduled, However, the District Attorney's Office and the Defense Bar are hereby directed to reschedule any pretrial conference where no substantive activity other than further scheduling is anticipated to occur, consistent with Victim's Rights under Chapter 950, and subject to the prior approval of the assigned judge or the judicial assistant.
6. Small claims intake will continue to be held as scheduled, with the understanding that:
In all non-eviction small claims actions, litigants are strongly encouraged to respond in writing, rather than in person, or to request approval to appear by telephone, or to request a continuance.
In all non-eviction small claims actions, requests for telephone appearances shall be granted. Defendants may indicate by telephone, off the record, that a non-eviction small claims action is contested, if and only if a current mailing address is provided, subject to the discreation of the judicial assistant and/or the Clerk of Circuit Court's Office.
In all non-eviction small claims actions, requests for continuances will be liberally granted, subject to the approval of the assigned judge or the judicial assistant.
In all small claims eviction actions, requests for telephone appearances will be liberally granted with prior approval of the assigned judge or the judicial assistant.
7. Traffic intake will continue to be held as scheduled, with the understanding that litigants are strongly encouraged to respond in writing, rather than in person, or to request approval to appear by telephone, or to request a continuance. Requests for continuances will be liberally granted, subject to the prior approval of the assigned judge or the judicial assistant.
8. Child support establishment and child support establishment hearings (generally scheduled on Wednesdays before the Family Court Commissioner) and child support contempt hearings (generally scheduled on Thursday mornings before the Circuit Court Judges) shall be coordinated between the Family Court Commissioner, the Circuit Court Judges, the Oneida County Corporation Counsel's Office and Oneida County Child Support Agency. Said coordination shall, to the extent practicable, strive to minimize the need for multiple litigants to be present in the courtrooms at the same time.
Bloom concluded the order by noting that the effective administration of the court system and the various agencies that regularly take part in court proceedings, is essential in "maintaining the ordered liberty that all citizens in our state are entitled to."
"The United State, the States of Wisconsin, and Oneida County are all in the midst of a dynamic and fluid health emergency, the status of which could change at any time," Bloom wrote. "It may become necessary for the Oneida County Circuit Court to implement additional Emergency and Temporary Measures, including cancelling some or all non-mandatory court proceedings indefinitely. The Oneida County Circuit Court thanks all citizens for your anticipated cooperation and patience during these extraordinary times."
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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