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Court shutdown continues

Restrictions and limitations on in-person court proceedings were extended through the end of May in an order from the Kentucky Supreme Court Tuesday.

The effects of the closures, though, will be felt for months to come.

Dockets of only matters involving people in jail or emergency matters mean the remaining matters are already being postponed.

Clark Circuit Clerk Martha Miller said they are beginning to reschedule events scheduled for May for several months into the future. They have already done the same for most March and April court dates.

Those court dates are changing often, she said, and defendants need to check with the clerk’s office regularly.

“It’s important they keep in touch with the court so we have their information and they’ll get their notices,” she said.

Hopefully, there will be fewer new cases from this time to build up once the court system returns to full function

“The blessing is (police officers) are writing very few citations,” Miller said. “They’re just doing those that (are necessary). There are some criminal complaints, but those are of dire need.”

The circuit criminal docket, which is for felony offenders, is down to about 20 people instead of dozens, she said.

“That’s just for the people in jail,” she said.

All other matters are being continued, including civil matters, most family court cases, child support matters and evictions.

The jails are not transporting prisoners between counties either.

The clerk’s office is also closed to the public, but Miller said attorneys are still dropping off documents for cases and filing other matters.

Miller said her staff is working on a rotating schedule with seven deputies working one week and the other seven working the following week. That may change to a two week rotation, with each set working two weeks at a time.

Miller said she pushed cross-training all her deputy clerks when she became clerk in 2018.

“It’s paying off right now,” she said.

The initial order followed Gov. Andy Beshear’s state of emergency declaration March 6.

The amended order cancels all civil or criminal dockets unless there are emergency or time-sensitive matters such as those involving defendants who are in custody, domestic violence hearings and child custody hearings.

The order also allowed parties and attorneys to participate remotely. In-person hearings were limited to 10 people in the courtroom including attorneys and parties, unless the judge decides otherwise while complying with social distancing guidelines.

Judicial facilities were closed to in-person services April 1.

Judges were also ordered to issue summonses instead of bench warrants or failure to appear notices.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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