As the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world, so is it changing the courts. Judicial officers, court staff, parties, subpoenaed witnesses, attorneys, and jurors must be healthy and safe in order for the courts to function. As trial court judges during this time of COVID-19, we have a responsibility to protect the health of those who enter our courthouses relying on our system of justice; to ensure they are safe and that our system remains fair. We cannot ensure access to justice if we, people who work in the courts and people who appear in front of us, are ill or afraid coming to court will expose them to COVID-19. This is about community safety and access to justice, not politics. It is about ensuring a healthy and fair judicial system. We, therefore, urge all court systems to adopt these protective guidelines:
1. No court should return to full operation until prevailing science and local health authorities say it is safe to do so.
2. Video and telephonic hearings should be encouraged whenever possible in the interest of justice so that all parties and witnesses can participate. Judicial officers and court staff should be trained and supported to conduct such hearings. A full list of protective guidelines can be found here.