Local judges announced Friday that the Christian County Justice Center will reopen for court proceedings Monday, but with strict protocols as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christian District Court Judges Jason Fleming, Foster Cotthoff and Lindsey Adams, Christian Circuit Court Judge John Atkins and County Clerk Paige Parker were all in attendance at a news conference Friday morning to announce and discuss the parameters of how the Justice Center will reopen.
“First and foremost, I just want to state that the health and safety of the citizens of Christian County — the people who come in this building — is paramount to us,” Cotthoff said during the conference.
“That’s what we have to deal with first and foremost, to keep everybody safe. We’re in a pandemic and as much as I want to get back to work full steam, that’s just not going to be possible right now.”
The judges explained that court proceedings will look a bit different Monday.
First, court attendance will not be able to exceed 33% capacity within a courtroom, and those that are in attendance will be required to social distance.
Each courtroom has been labeled with signs and markings indicating where everyone is to sit and where they are not allowed to sit to adhere to social distancing guidelines. The waiting areas outside the various courtrooms are also labeled in the same fashion.
Everyone who enters the building, including staff, will be required to wear a mask. If someone does not have a mask but is required to appear in court, they will be provided a mask if the Justice Center has enough supplies to do so.
If someone refuses to wear a mask, they will not be allowed into the building, the judges said.
Those who enter the courthouse will not be allowed to bring in any bags or purses. They are also not allowed to bring children or a guest to accompany them in court.
To ensure that people follow the 33% capacity rule, the judges shared that the court will be scheduling less cases per week than were scheduled prior to the pandemic, reducing the amount of foot traffic in the courthouse.
At the same time, Fleming said extra efforts for sanitation of the courtrooms and facility are being implemented.
Following each docket, the microphones, tables and other surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected.
Fleming added that Christian Fiscal Court was able to provide additional staffing for cleaning during the day, as cleaning was usually done at night prior to the pandemic.
No in-person court payments will be accepted at the clerk’s office for the foreseeable future as part of pandemic protocols.
Instead, payments for court costs, fines, fees or restitution can be made by money order mailed to the circuit clerk’s office or by credit and debit card by calling the circuit clerk’s office. Prepayable citations can be paid online through ePay at kycourts.gov.
Atkins explained that the courts are expecting a higher level of cooperation from those who will be attending court considering the situation the coronavirus pandemic has put both the court and those who attend in.
He added that using the pandemic situation as a way to subvert court appearances would not be tolerated.
“If you’re coming to the Justice Center, just be assured that you will be expected to comply with what we believe to be reasonable precautions,” Atkins said during the conference.
Along with cooperation, the court is asking for the public’s patience and, most importantly, communication.
The new parameters the court has set will rely heavily on communication between defendants who are required to be at court for a proceeding.
All judges shared that if an individual is required to appear for court but is too afraid or concerned to go to the courthouse, they can request to attend court virtually via Zoom. In fact, the judges encourage the public to utilize the option.
To request a virtual meeting rather than in-person, Adams suggested defendants talk with their attorney or call the Justice Center at least two days prior to their appearance and request a Zoom link for a virtual appearance.
For Christian District Court, individuals can call 270-889-6544. For circuit court, individuals can call 270-889-6539 and follow the prompt.
Parker explained that those who have not been able to renew their driver’s license since the Justice Center closed in March can now begin the process Monday. However, only one person is allowed in the office at a time and only three people are allowed in the waiting area.
Instead, Parker says individuals wanting to renew their licenses should wait in their vehicles in the parking lot and text “DL” to 270-447-1721 and her staff will text them when they are ready to come inside.
For any other questions or concerns regarding the reopening of the Justice Center, call 270-889-6539.