Jackson County Presiding Circuit Judge Jenifer Holt announced Thursday that in-person court hearings will resume May 18.

In a written order, Holt said that includes circuit courts, district court, juvenile courts, municipal courts and probate courts.

“The judges within the circuit shall individually determine when it is appropriate to conduct such in-person hearings on a case by case basis,” said Holt.

Holt said jury trials will remain suspended until Sept. 14.

Several court proceedings were suspended in March following a national and state emergencies being declared amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Holt said to protect courthouse employees and other individuals accessing the courts, any permitted in-person proceedings shall be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, members of the press and other necessary persons, as determined by the trial judge.

“This restriction shall remain in place until the Supreme Court of Alabama determines that a state of emergency for the judicial branch of the state of Alabama no longer exists,” said Holt.

Witnesses shall be placed on standby and shall remain out of the courthouse and courtrooms until the court is ready for them at which time they will be contacted by the attorney or by the pro se party, Holt said.

Holt said no person shall enter the courthouse or individual courtrooms who has been diagnosed with, or has had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or has been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency.

“All persons entering the courthouse and individual courtrooms shall maintain a minimum of six feet of separation between such persons (except for those persons who share the same household),” said Holt.

Holt said hand sanitizers and personal protective equipment will be provided in the courtrooms.

Holt also said the courts will continue to utilize available technologies such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing to conduct hearings when it is practical and feasible to do so.

“So long as core constitutional functions and rights are protected, all judges are urged to limit in-person courtroom contact as much as possible by utilizing available technologies, including electronic filing, teleconferencing and videoconferencing, as authorized by the Supreme Court of Alabama,” said Holt.

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