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Courthouses closed to public; other changes announced

Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald on Friday ordered all state courthouses closed to the public, except for official court business, from Monday to April 30 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, and the Judiciary is taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety of our community,” Recktenwald said. “We join Hawaii’s leaders in doing everything possible to slow the spread of this virus.”

Those with official court business include:

• Parties, attorneys, witnesses, domestic violence advocates, guardians ad litem, interpreters or any other person who must appear in-person as authorized by previous orders

• Individuals who need to file documents with the court and who are unable to electronically file

• Individuals who request to watch a specific public proceeding.

Earlier in the week, Interim 3rd Circuit Chief Judge Melvin Fujino issued a set of emergency orders aimed at limiting the number of people who must appear in person at Big Island courthouses during the COVID-19 crisis.

The orders postpone all criminal trials, whether jury or non-jury, until after April 30. Grand jury panels, which usually convene twice monthly in Hilo and Kona, are also suspended until after April 30. All treatment courts, including Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court, are also postponed until after April 30, as are all HOPE Probation hearings, with the exception of those deemed to be essential by the presiding judge.

Change-of-plea and sentencing hearings will go on as scheduled unless the parties request a postponement until after April 30.

All District Court criminal and traffic cases involving defendants who aren’t in custody are also postponed until after April 30.

Criminal matters that won’t be postponed include arraignment, plea and extradition hearings, initial appearances for felony cases, preliminary hearings for in-custody defendants, bail hearings and hearings deemed urgent by the presiding judge.

Hearings for temporary restraining orders, gun violence protective orders, emergency guardianship and most Child Welfare Service cases are also among matters that will be heard as scheduled.

All Circuit Court civil trials, jury and non-jury, also will be rescheduled to dates after April 30, except proceedings deemed urgent by the presiding judge.

All Probate Court matters are suspended until further notice.

Proceedings will be conducted by telephone or videoconference when practical, according to orders.

The Judiciary is also asking anyone who has a fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms; who has traveled out of Hawaii in the past 14 days; or who has been in contact with anyone who has the COVID-19 coronavirus or who is suspected to have COVID-19 to not enter courthouses. Anyone who falls under those categories who has a scheduled court date should call their attorney and/or the respective court for guidance.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” said Hilo attorney Brian De Lima on Thursday. “We’re in an emergency situation and the chief justice issued orders and the chief judge of the 3rd Circuit issued orders that are practical and take into account the safety of the community and the users of the court system.

“And I support, without reservation, the orders that have been issued.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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