Effective March 16, 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered almost all court activities closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The courts remained open but suspended almost all in-person proceedings, with limited exceptions. Judges and court clerks were encouraged to utilize all available technologies – including e-mail, teleconferencing, and video conferencing.
Now, almost two months later, some courts may be beginning to reopen. If you have questions about upcoming court appearances, how to file a family law action, or other questions, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today. We are still able to provide legal services remotely via phone or video to keep your family safe.
Supreme Court of Missouri Order for Easing Court Restrictions
On May 4, 2020, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued an order In re: Operational Directives for Easing COVID-19 Restrictions on In-Person Proceedings. The court will now begin the process of easing in-person restrictions for the appellate and circuit courts, including family courts.
According to the Court, “the primary goal and principal purpose of this and all prior COVID-19 related orders is that the courts of the State of Missouri shall remain open, available, and able to carry out the core, constitutional functions of the Missouri judiciary as prescribed by law and continue to uphold the constitutional rights of litigants seeking redress in any Missouri court.”
Easing restrictions may look different for each circuit court. Individual circuit courts are to, “work with local law enforcement, judiciary partners, and county health agencies to ensure that, to the extent possible, courthouses remain accessible to carry out time-sensitive in-person proceedings and other essential constitutional functions.”
Continuing Video and Remote Hearings
Judges and courts are still encouraged to use available technologies to conduct activities remotely, including teleconferencing and video conferencing. Remote hearings will allow the courts to limit the number of in-person proceedings. Additionally, any local, criminal, or civil rules that would prevent or impede a judge's ability to use available technology are suspended.
Operational Directives for Court Reopening
Effective May 16, 2020, court activity in all appellate and divisions of the circuit courts shall be limited and restricted under the new Operational Directives. The operational directives are essentially a 6-stage plan, as follows:
- Gateway Criteria
- Operating Phase Approach
- Operating Phase Zero
- Operating Phase One
- Operating Phase Two
- Operating Phase Three
Presiding judges are to monitor the local situation and may be able to revert back to a prior operating phase, based on local conditions and circumstances. Factors for the first phase, or “Gateway Criteria” include:
- No confirmed COVID-19 cases in the court facility within a 14-day period.
- Rescission or lack of stay-at-home orders or the relaxing of group gathering restrictions applicable to the community.
- Improving COVID-19 health conditions over a 14-day period in the community.
- Consultation with local health officials or departments concerning changes to levels of court and courthouse activities.
- Consultation with local judiciary partners such as children's division personnel, juvenile officers, members of the local bar, prosecutors and public defenders, law enforcement and probation and parole.
Based on these criteria, the presiding judge or chief judge may consider moving to the next Operating Phase, and so on. Check with your local circuit court to find out about reopening plans. You can also contact your local Missouri attorney with questions about your case.
Contact Local Cass County Attorney for Help
If you have questions about your case, including family matters, bankruptcy proceedings, or criminal defense representation, contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today by calling (816) 331-9968 or fill out our online form.