WV Supreme Court issues COVID-19 guidance, County courthouses comply

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CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — Following an administrative order from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, several county courthouses issue guidance. The action comes in response to concerns over the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Several measures went into effect in all West Virginia courts on Monday, March 16, 2020 and will remain in place at least through Friday, April 10.

  • All civil and criminal trials and jury orientation scheduled during these dates will be continued generally, except where a criminal defendant’s speedy trial rights would preclude the continuation.
  • With the exception of emergency matters, including domestic violence petitions, child abuse and neglect petitions, criminal arraignments or criminal hearings with statutory time requirements, mental hygiene petitions and any other matter deemed by the presiding judicial officer as requiring immediate resolution, all hearings currently scheduled to be held on any date beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday, April 10, 2020, shall either be: (1) postponed until a date subsequent to Friday, April 10 or (2) held by use of remote, telephonic, or other video technology. In the event such hearing cannot be held via remote , telephonic, or other video technology, the presiding judicial officer shall postpone any such matter to a date subsequent to April 10, 2020.
  • To the extent that it does not infringe upon the Constitutional or statutory rights of a party or litigant, any West Virginia state or local rule, criminal or civil, that limits or precludes a judicial officer or court clerk’s ability to utilize remote, telephonic or video technology to limit in-person contact, is suspended.
  • In the event that a judicial officer or clerk’s office is closed or restricted to the public during the period of suspension, these offices shall remain accessible by telephone and email to the extent possible during the regular business hours. If available, a drop box or other means of physical filing should be used for conventionally filed documents.
  • The attendance of litigants, jurors, witnesses, attorneys or court personnel at court proceedings shall be governed by the COVID-19 Planning Document issued by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on March 12, 2020, and the Coronavirus Notice to All Parties, Attorney, Witnesses, Jurors, and the Public, issued by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on March 13, 2020.
  • The Courts of the State of West Virginia shall have the authority, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations governing court proceedings, to take steps in addition to the directives contained herein to manage each such court’s docket and proceedings in a manner designated to protect the health and well-being of court employees, litigants, witnesses , jurors, attorneys and the general public.

On March 17, 2020, county courthouses released their own guidance based on the order issued by the WV Supreme Court. Here is a look at the instructions by county.

SUMMERS COUNTY

The public is asked to limit access to the Courthouse to visits for only essential business or services. The County Commission is encouraging the public to call the desired county service office to see if business can be conducted over the phone or online before they visit the courthouse in person. People can also check the county website.

The Summers County Courthouse will be open to the public during normal hours Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Summers County Judicial Annex, which includes the Summers County Magistrate Court and Family Court, and the Summers County Circuit Court, located in the Courthouse, fall under the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals administrative order regarding COVID-19.

MERCER COUNTY

The Mercer County Magistrate Court announced the on call Magistrate shall conduct initial appearances as need. The action is temporary and the best way to keep offices and defendant from being exposed at the Regional Jail. Officers with a defendant under arrest shall contact the 911 center to call out the night duty magistrate. The night duty Magistrate shall come out and conduct the initial appearance forthwith. The night duty Magistrate shall remain available for the taking of DVPs and PSOs when called.

FAYETTE COUNTY

All hearings in front of Judge Ewing for March 17 are cancelled. All civil and criminal trials from March 17 to April 10 will be continued until a later date.

An administrative order will be issued later on March 17 to address the status of other future court hearings and proceedings.

RALEIGH COUNTY

Due to the growing concern and threat created by COVID-19, the Raleigh County Commission is asking that any business that needs conducted at Raleigh County Offices please be done by phone, mail, email or online. All Raleigh County Offices will remain open during this time; however, in accordance with the most recent guidelines and best practices recommended by health care professionals, the Raleigh County Commission reserves the right to limit any or all functions, activities or departments at any time and as they see fit.

The Glen Daniel Satellite Office will be open on Tuesday’s & Wednesday’s until further notice from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. At this time, they will only be able to accept tax payments by check and will be unable to do DMV renewals. All functions of the Assessors office will remain the same within this location.

“The County provides so many essential services that it is near impossible to completely close down all operations within the county without having adverse effects to other operations and/ or businesses that are not within our control,” Jeff Miller, County Administrator stated. “Therefore, we will remain open, HOWEVER, we ask that if you can call us or utilize our services online, please do so to help limit the amount of foot traffic we have in our offices during this time. Our staff is here to help in anyway we can and we are more than happy to assist you by phone or even by email.”

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