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Virus prompts more changes for Big Island courts

In-person hearings have been discontinued in Hawaii Island courts and criminal jury trials have been postponed through Nov. 13, per an emergency order issued by Third Circuit Chief Judge Robert D.S. Kim.

“In response to the rise in COVID-19 cases on the Big Island, in-person hearings are being discontinued in favor of remote video hearings and nonhearing motions whenever possible,” said Kim. “Our goal is to protect the safety of the public, litigants, attorneys and staff.”

Kim issued orders last Tuesday and Friday pertaining to trials, court hearings and other mandates. They apply to all courts on Hawaii Island.

All criminal jury trials may commence on Nov. 16, barring further public health or other extraordinary developments that would make doing so imprudent, according to one of the orders. Criminal bench trials may be held at the discretion of the trial court.

Bail hearings, extradition hearings, initial appearances in felony cases, and matters deemed essential and urgent by the trial court judge will proceed as scheduled in person. However, appearances may be conducted by Zoom video conferencing with consent of the defendant.

All pretrial conferences shall be conducted by Zoom video conferencing with the court having the power to authorize in-person or telephone pretrial conferences in its sole discretion.

Probate court, which includes petitions regarding probate, conservatorships, guardianships and trusts will have in-person hearings suspended until further notice. However, cases may be renoticed for Zoom conference as needed.

All bench trials, evidentiary hearings, motions for summary judgment, dismissal, and temporary restraining orders/preliminary injunctions shall be remotely conducted via Zoom video conferencing. The trial judge, however, does have the discretion to hold in-person bench trial or hearings.

In addition, all civil jury trials are postponed to a date after Nov. 13.

Family Court essential calendars shall continue to be conducted, according to the Kim’s orders. In-person appearance is required unless a remote appearance is requested in writing at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing, and approved by the court, for temporary restraining orders, gun violence protective orders, shelter hearings and more.

Adult criminal cases in Family Court will be held in-person, however, defendants in custody will be heard remotely to the extent feasible and as permitted by law.

Juvenile drug court adjudication hearings, contested motions, disposition hearings and trials shall be held in-person unless the parties consent to appear remotely and the court approves, according to Kim’s orders.

In regard to foreclosures, all public sales of property previously ordered to be sold shall as well as all in-person hearings are postponed until further notice. Motions for summary and/or default judgment, and confirmations of sale shall be held via Zoom video conferencing.

Kim’s orders also maintain restrictions upon entry into Hawaii Island courthouses. Per the orders, no person shall enter any courthouse if they have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or other symptoms of respiratory illness; traveled outside of the state or interisland within the past 14 days; had close prolonged contact with any person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19; or is pending the results of a COVID-19 test.

Face coverings must also be worn at all times and social distancing must be practiced. Further, each person must pass a temperature check to gain entry to any court facility.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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