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Hempstead County Circuit & District Courts to Resume

By Dale Gathright, Jr., 05/18/20 1:27 PM

HOPE – Plans and guidelines have been made and approved by the Circuit and District Courts of Hempstead County to start hearing cases in each court beginning with Circuit Court on Thursday May 21. District Court will resume on Monday June 1 for county cases and on Tuesday June 2 for city cases. Guidelines have been developed by the judges of each court as to how to proceed with hearing cases.

Sheriff James Singleton said, “We ask all persons having business before the court to be patient and adhere to the guidelines for their health and safety as well as the health and safety of the court officials during these unprecedented times.”

As the Circuit and District Courts start to reopen and hear cases the following guidelines will be in effect.

Circuit Court

Court appearances will be staggered as timed hearings when appropriate or on large criminal days. Defendants will be divided alphabetically. If the defendants last name begins with A-L, the reporting time will be 9:00 a.m. and if the last name begins with M-Z the reporting time is at 1:00 p.m.

District Court

Court appearances will be staggered depending on the size of the docket. The District Court will determine before each court date how to stagger the docket, depending on the size of the docket. The District Clerk will get this information to the Sheriff’s Office a few days before the court dates so the Sheriff’s Office can plan on how to handle the number of people who will be showing up for court.

The courts will provide a court docket to the security station so that security deputies will know what defendant has been required to appear on that court day. Only 40 defendants will be allowed inside the courtroom at a time. Once the security station allows 40 persons inside the courtroom, others will be advised to wait outside the courthouse or in their cars. People will not be allowed to gather in groups of more than ten outside the courthouse and will not be allowed to sit or stand on the steps of the courthouse. Security deputies will notify persons waiting when they can enter the courthouse.

All Court Personnel and Defendants entering the Courthouse will be required to wear a mask (face covering). Defendants will be notified in advance by the court of this requirement.

Only the defendant and his or her attorney will be allowed in the courthouse and in the court room. Unless it involves a juvenile and then only one parent or guardian will be allowed. Security deputies will instruct the defendant to go directly to the third-floor courtroom, and once their case is heard they will proceed directly back to the security station and exit the courthouse and will not be allowed to visit other offices in the courthouse.

All defendants will be screened for temperature at the Security Station, and anyone having a temperature of 99.6 degrees will be denied entry. A note will be placed on the court docket and court officials will be notified of any defendant being denied entry. Two additional deputies will assist the security deputies; one will assist the security station deputies with screening and one will be stationed outside the doors of the court to monitor the persons entering and leaving as to maintain the limit of 40 persons inside the court room.

Defendants will maintain social distancing upon entry and once in the courtroom. Seating will be marked as to maintain the 6-foot social distancing.

All persons entering the Hempstead County Courthouse will answer the following questions.

1. Have you run a fever of over 99.6 degrees in the last 14 days?

2. Do you have a cough/shortness of breath?

3. Have you had pneumonia/flu recently?

4. Have you traveled out of the country in the last 14 days to a Level 2 or 3 country as determined by the CDC? This includes China, Iran, most European countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

5. Have you traveled to a high-risk state in the last 14 days? Currently,Tennessee (including Memphis), Washington, California, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

6. Have you had contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patient within the last 14 days?

Other information:

· A limited number of masks will be available at the security station.

· Hand sanitizer will be made available

· Custodial staff will continue at least twice daily sanitation efforts

· Courts to identify and publish freeWI-Fi areas for use of parties and witnesses when needed

· Notices will be posted requiring recommended social distancing, wearing of masks and good hygiene