Missouri Supreme Court suspends appellate, circuit court proceedings

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 3/18/20

Missouri’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the immediate suspension of all in-person proceedings of appellate and circuit courts through Friday, April 3.

The Supreme Court’s ruling …

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Missouri Supreme Court suspends appellate, circuit court proceedings

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Missouri’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the immediate suspension of all in-person proceedings of appellate and circuit courts through Friday, April 3.

The Supreme Court’s ruling includes all associate circuit court, family, juvenile, municipal, and probate divisions. This “ruling may be extended by order of this Court as circumstances may warrant,” according to Chief Justice George W. Draper in his four-page ruling. The ruling concluded noting, “This order is intended to be interpreted broadly for protection of the public from the risks associated with COVID-19.”

The suspension of in-person proceedings included several exceptions which the judge noted in bullet points, including:

• Proceedings necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants and juveniles;

• Proceedings in which civil or criminal jury trials are already in progress as of March 16, 2020;

• Proceedings pursuant to chapter 455 pertaining to orders of protection;

• Proceedings related to emergency child custody orders;

• Proceedings related to petitions for temporary restraining orders or other forms of temporary injunctive relief;

• Proceedings related to emergency mental health orders;

• Proceedings pursuant to Chapter 475 for emergency guardianship or conservatorship;

• Proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency;

• Oral arguments regarding time-sensitive matters; and,

• Other exceptions approved by the Chief Justice of this Court.

The judge also ruled “the Supreme Court of Missouri should be notified immediately of the closing of any courthouse, and notice of such closings should be disseminated to the local media and posted on the courthouse doors.”

And, the ruling also noted, “Each court is instructed to post an order to the courthouse doors prohibiting access to the premises for individuals that have been exposed to or are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Judge I.I. “Ike” Lamke, presiding judge of the 20th Judicial Circuit which includes Franklin, Gasconade and Osage counties, issued a written statement Monday about the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that the outbreak of the coronavirus is a worldwide pandemic, and both the President of the United States and the Governor of the State of Missouri have issued respective declarations of states of emergency in response to the coronavirus, the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Circuit Court of the 20th Judicial Circuit have immediately begun to implement various safety procedure. The overriding goal of the Court is to ensure access to the Court system that minimizes risk to the health and safety of everyone at court and jail facilities.”

The Supreme Court justices, sitting together on the bench (en banc), on Tuesday issued an administrative order based on their constitutional authority to supervise the administration of the state judicial system.

Lamke highlighted the Supreme Court’s order that a notice be posted to the courthouse doors prohibiting access to the premises for individuals who have been exposed to or are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus. Individuals will be screened by the courthouse security and/ or clerks to determine whether or not a person should be admitted into the courthouse. Also, he noted, “some cases are being continued for a short duration in order to lessen exposure of large numbers of people in the courthouse.”

Lamke urged those with scheduled hearings to contact their attorneys, or if a person does not have an attorney, contact the clerk’s office or go on case.net to check the status of any case in which they may be involved in order to avoid making an unnecessary trip to the courthouse. There will be dockets posted in the entry lobby so that a person can check to see if a matter has been rescheduled.

Also, any person involved with a pending court matter which would require that person’s presence in court and who has symptoms of the coronavirus should contact their attorney so that a continuance may be sought.

For those persons involved with a pending court matter which would require their presence without an attorney, those persons should contact the clerk’s office at their earliest opportunity for guidance.

Have your case number, court date, and court division number available when you call.

If you are a witness and have symptoms of the coronavirus, you should contact the attorney who has subpoenaed you and inform them of your illness so that other arrangements might be made to accommodate you.

“Court is attempting to ensure every citizen access to the justice system while minimizing the potential spread of the coronavirus within our communities,” Lamke wrote in his release. “Your court officials have taken an oath to perform their duties and every court employee is striving to ensure our citizens are well served.”

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