COLUMBIA CITY — There will be less traffic at the Whitley County Courthouse after a petition was granted by the Indiana Supreme Court.
The petition will allow for several changes, including immediate suspension of all criminal and civil jury and bench trials, including those with “fast and speedy” setting requested through May 4.
Judges across the country are now attempting to balance to important things — the safety of those gathering at the courthouse, and the constitutional rights of those in proceedings.
“The courts will continue to conduct essential functions,” Whitley Superior Court Judge Doug Fahl said. “We as judges are committee to protecting our employees and litigants. We are also committed to protecting the constitutional rights of those involved in the criminal justice system.”
All non-essential hearings in criminal cases will be continued, and pre-trial and discovery hearings will be held by counsel only. Additionally, there will be attorney-only conferences whenever possible and defendants will appear via teleconference or video conference from fail except in special circumstances.
“The courts have recently upgraded our digital capabilities. Litigants are encouraged to take advantage of e-filing and other online options to conduct legal business,” Fahl said. “Litigants with attorneys are encouraged to contact their counsel prior to coming to the courthouse.”
Those without counsel may call 260-248-3119 for Superior Court or 260-248-3115 for Circuit Court case.
All non-essential civil hearings will also be continued. Attorneys can also appear remotely for any status conference, pretrial conference or non-evidentiary hearings.
Subject to applicable constitutional limitations, the courts are also authorized to limit spectators to the extent necessary to provide adequate social distancing and to limit the size of the gathering consistent with public-health recommendations.
“We continue to engage local and state health and emergency management agencies,” Fahl said. “We will actively monitor the situation and resume normal operations as soon as it is safe and prudent to do so.”
The courts are able to file a status update prior to May 1 for a possible extension if there is an ongoing need for emergency relief.