Courts limit in-person hearings, won’t pick juries because of coronavirus




    Photo by Jim Small | Arizona Mirror

    Arizona courts are sharply limiting in-person proceedings and are halting jury selection until the end of March to comply with public health recommendations aimed at limiting spread of the coronavirus.

    In an order issued Monday, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote that Arizona courts will follow social distancing recommendations issued earlier that day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness. Those recommendations include cancelling public events of more than 10 people.

    To comply, Brutinel wrote that Arizona courts are directed that “all in-person proceedings in all Arizona appellate, superior, justice and municipal courts and before the presiding disciplinary judge be avoided to the greatest extent possible consistent with core constitutional rights.”

    Additionally, all jury selection – for both trials and grand juries – is halted until March 31, and jury selections that were scheduled before then will be rescheduled.

    Brutinel ordered the presiding judge in each county superior court to determine how best to conduct necessary in-person hearings. Among the possible ways to limit hearings, Brutinel wrote, are using video- or teleconferencing and “liberally granting” delays in proceedings to accommodate parties in cases, attorneys, witnesses and jurors who are at high-risk of COVID-19.

    If individual superior courts have rules that impede the use of technology to limit in-person hearings, those rules are suspended until March 31, Brutinel wrote. 

    In the event that court buildings must be closed, Brutinel ordered that the courts be accessible to the public by telephone and email during normal business hours. 

    The courts aren’t alone in limiting their work: The legislature on Monday seemed poised to either suspend its current session or end it altogether by the end of the week.

    How you can tell if you might have been impacted

    Symptoms of coronavirus resemble that of the flu. So, if you’re experiencing coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, you should consider getting checked out. Call your primary care physician or visit an urgent care center or emergency room — but call the health care provider before you go so they can be prepared for your arrival. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is taking COVID-19 calls: 1-844-542-8201

    How coronavirus spreads

    • Through the air by coughing or sneezing
    • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
    • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it

    How to prevent spreading coronavirus

    • Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Don’t use your hands.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
    • Clean surfaces frequently, including counter tops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
    • Contain: if you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.
    Jim Small
    Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.