COVID 19 cOURT PROCEDURE
STANDING ORDER 15
BEST PRACTICES FOR COURT PROCEEDINGS DURING COVID-19
The Gainesville Municipal Court in Gainesville, Texas (the Court) is within the Steven K. Fleming Public Safety Building, which is a public building where the public is welcome. Unfortunately, because of the corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, operations at the Court have been reduced. Many hearings have been conducted by phone or video conference, and physical access to the Court has been limited.
This court and its staff have been engaged in what is known as “Recovery Planning”, so that the court may continue to operate safely. The court has reviewed recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concerning precautions to be taken, executive orders from the Governor of the State of Texas, including Executive Order No. GA-34, effective March 10, 2021 as well as The Office of Court Administration and Emergency Order 36 of the Texas Supreme Court effective March 5, 2021.
The court has carefully considered all of these factors in balancing the rights of criminal defendants, the right of the public to “open courts” and the safety of court staff, defendants, jurors, witnesses, observers and counsel. The court has determined that trials and hearings may be held on a limited and controlled basis.
It is therefore ORDERED, effective April 1, 2021 at 12:01 A.M. that absent a specific order from this court, for the protection of court staff, defendants, jurors, witnesses, observers and counsel, the following persons shall not enter the court:
- Any person who has traveled to or from any of the following destinations within the preceding 14 days: Brazil, People’s Republic of China, Iran, South Africa or Europe;
- Any person who is currently under the direction of a licensed healthcare professional or public health agency to self-quarantine;
- Any person who has been diagnosed by a license health care provider as having COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas, and who has not obtained written verification from a licensed medical doctor, hospital or public health agency professional that he or she is currently not contagious;
- Any person who has resided with, or has had close contact with, a person described in category 1, 2 or 3 above; or
- Any person who exhibits or reports currently having a fever, persistent cough or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, or nausea.
It is further ORDERED that a Court Bailiff or a member of the court staff shall confirm that none of the exclusions listed above applies to that person and require an affidavit, stating the same, to be signed by any person seeking entry to the court at any time. The court, the Bailiff and court staff, shall take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of COVID-19, including requiring compliance with social distancing protocols and face coverings worn over the nose and mouth.
It is further ORDERED that during jury selection and while any trial or hearing is ongoing, those persons who are not barred by one of the exclusions describe in categories 1 through 5 above, and who are participants or jurors in the trial, will have their temperature taken using a non-contact thermometer, and will be allowed to enter only if the reading is below One Hundred Degrees Fahrenheit (100°F).
It is further ORDERED that upon entry into the Court all persons must comply with the following requirements:
- All spectators must sit three (3) feet apart and wear a facemask at all times;
- Each person, except a witness while testifying, and an attorney while examining a witness or making a statement to a jury or the court, must wear an appropriate face mask or covering while inside the courtroom, public hallways and public restrooms unless excused from this requirement by the judge;
- Each person must maintain appropriate distancing from others in the court, to include sitting at the location assigned by a member of the court staff. Each person must follow instructions of the court staff and bailiff to aid in maintaining distance in the court;
- To help minimize personal contact with Bailiff personnel, each person, is requested not to bring personal items such as purses and bags or other items that would require additional screening into the court.
It is further ORDERED that all Bailiffs, following substantive guidance provided by this order, shall deny entry to anyone attempting to enter, or remain in, the court in violation of these protocols.
If you are scheduled or required to appear in the court during the period that this order is in effect, and you are, or will be, unable to gain entry because of the targeted visitor restrictions in this order, so that other arrangements shall be made, you should proceed as follows:
- If you are represented by an attorney, please contact your attorney;
- Contact the court directly as soon as possible before the date and time of your hearing; or
- If you are an attorney scheduled to appear in court before the judge, please contact the court administrator directly by telephone (940.668.4750), and if necessary, follow up by email.
Upon request and good cause shown by a court participant other than a juror the court shall permit the participant to participate remotely in any proceeding, subject to constitutional limitations.
It is further ORDERED that, unless altered by subsequent order, these restrictions shall remain in place, and filed with the Standing Orders of the Gainesville Municipal Court and shall be posted in a prominent location at the main entrance of the court.
This Order is effective immediately and expires June 1, 2021, unless extended by the Presiding Judge of the Gainesville Municipal Court.
So ORDERED and SIGNED, April 1, 2021.
Christopher F. Cypert
Judge, Municipal Court Gainesville
Cooke County, State of Texas