The Kentucky Supreme Court provided further guidance this week on how the Judicial Branch can safely carry out court operations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Justice John Minton, Jr., a Trigg County native, issued two administrative orders that clarify requirements for court facilities and proceedings, addresses staffing concerns raised by circuit court clerks and provides an update on the handling of jury trials and evictions.
According to one of the orders, criminal jury trials will be allowed to resume after August 1, and civil jury trials will resume after October 1, if the trial judge determines in his/her discretion after considering local public health conditions and the Supreme Court’s health and safety requirements, that it is advisable. An order also mandates the use of facial coverings during jury trials by parties, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and members of the public and media.
The order also allows all eviction actions to proceed August 1, subject to federal CARES Act requirements. It also clarifies certain requirements for eviction actions that are subject to the CARES Act, including that landlords provide 30 days’ notice to vacate prior to filing an action for eviction and the prohibition against charging any fees, penalties, or other charges that accrued during the effective dates of the CARES Act.
Another order issued by Chief Minton amends provisions on the entrance to court facilities to allow additional access and clarifies that judges are responsible for ensuring appropriate social distancing and proper use of facial coverings in their courtrooms. In addition, the order requires an appointment for any-person seeking driver’s license services and mandates remote renewal for any driver’s license through September 30.
The order also amends provisions on staffing at the local level to allow elected officials greater flexibility on in-person staffing based on certain factors, including the ability to maintain appropriate social distancing and divide staff into work teams.