District Court issues temporary rules during outbreak
March 26, 2020
The District Judges who represent Crook County have issued general orders regarding how the courts will operate during the COVID-19 outbreak. The orders are an attempt to implement best practices as recommended by public health officials at the national, state and local level.
According to a message from Judge Thomas Rumpke, as officials continue to update their advice and guidance, “We will adjust our order to protect the public’s health while still administering our justice system to the greatest extent possible”.
The first general order temporarily restricts public access to the courtrooms. Though it is understood that court proceedings should be limited to the public only in exceptional circumstances, “The Court concludes that the current global pandemic constitutes extraordinary circumstances that justify excluding all persons, other than the participants, and their attorneys, from all further hearings.”
The order takes into account that the courts cannot ensure high-risk persons and those exhibiting symptoms will not intermingle during proceedings. The order will be lifted when the president and governor declare there is no longer a national and state emergency.
The second order addresses in-person appearances and mandates that telephone and videoconferencing will be used for all civil proceedings except for Title 25 proceedings, shelter care hearings and juvenile court trials. In-person appearances will also still be required for arraignments, changes of plea, probation revocation hearings and criminal trials.
An emergency order was issued by the Wyoming Supreme Court this morning implementing measures to protect the public and court personnel. The order advised the suspension of in-person proceedings.
“We are fortunate that our branch has invested in video technology and upgraded our hardware in recent years so that we can perform many judicial functions remotely,” Chief Justice Davis said in the announcement. He also encouraged individual judges to issue orders specific to their needs as this health situation evolves.
On March 20, the Public Defender’s Office requested that all jury trials set to begin before May 1, 2020 be vacated. A further general order issued the same day vacates all jury trials set to begin before May 1, 2020, civil and criminal, regardless of whether the Public Defender’s Office is involved.
“Again, we have determined that this action is consistent with the recommendations of our public health officials,” said Rumpke in a statement.