Emergency order sends jurors home, halts trials

OKLAHOMA CITY — The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an emergency order Monday regarding the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Judge Noma D. Gurich ordered all district courts in the state to cancel jury terms and release jurors for the next 30 days.

"Governor J. Kevin Stitt issued Executive Order 2020-07 on March 15, 2020, declaring an emergency in all 77 Oklahoma Counties caused by the impending threat of COVID-19 to the people of the state," the order states. "This joint order is issued to clarify the procedures to be followed in all Oklahoma district courts and to encourage social distancing and to avoid risks to judges, court clerks, court employees and the public."

The order sets the following rules:

• All district courts will cancel all jury terms for the next 30 days and release jurors from service. No additional jurors shall be summoned without approval of the chief justice. All civil, criminal and juvenile jury trials shall be continued to the next available jury dockets.

• Subject only to constitutional limitations, all deadlines and procedures whether prescribed by statute, rule or order in any civil, juvenile or criminal case, will be suspended for 30 days. This suspension also applies to appellate rules and procedures for the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals and the court of civil appeals.

• In any civil case, the statute of limitations will be extended for 30 days.

• Subject only to constitutional limitations, assigned judges should reschedule all non-jury trial settings, hearings and pretrial settings. Emergency matters, arraignments, bond hearings and required proceedings of any kind will be handled on a case-by-case basis by the assigned judge. Judges shall use remote participation to the extent possible by use of telephone conferencing, video conferencing pursuant to Rule 34 of the Rules for District Courts, or other means. The use of email, fax and drop boxes for acceptance of written materials is encouraged, except that the use of email may not be used for appellate filings at this time. If any party or counsel objects to a continuance of any matter, assigned judges are encouraged to hold hearings in the same manner as emergency matters.

The order also sets limitations on who may access courtroom or court services areas.

The following people are prohibited from entering any courtroom, court clerk’s office, judges’ offices, jury room or other facility used by the district courts:

• People who have been diagnosed with or have direct contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.

• People with symptoms such as fever, severe cough or shortness of breath.

• People who have traveled to any country outside of the U.S. in the past 14 days, and those with whom they live or have had close contact.

• People who are quarantined or isolated by any doctor or who voluntarily quarantine.

Anyone in one of those categories and who is scheduled for a court appearance or are seeking emergency relief, should contact their attorney, and if they have no attorney, call the court clerk’s office in the county where they are required to appear.

All courts may limit the number of people who may enter any courtroom, judges’ or clerk’s office, jury room or any other facility used by the district courts.

The order is subject to extension or modification.

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Rains is police and court reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @cassrains.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Cass? Send an email to crains@enidnews.com.

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