Local News

Wake County leaders working on plans to safely reopen courthouses

Posted May 15, 2020 11:54 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2020 8:23 p.m. EDT

— Per the order of the North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, most normal routine court functions won't resume until after June 1.

But even then, things will look and feel very different in your local courthouse. Right now, there are a limited number of hearings taking place in the Wake County court system.

"Civil hearings one hundred percent are remote hearings using a video platform," Superior Court judge Paul Ridgeway said. "Everybody is participating, even spectators."

It's anything but business as usual.

"We want to get guidance on what is the safest way to proceed," chief district court judge Robert Rader added.

Court officials are working on a plan along with Wake County leaders to figure out how to safely fully reopen their two busy courthouses.

"It will be things like limiting the number of people in the courtroom, screening people when they come in, trying to encourage people to wear personal protective equipment," Rader said.

Judges say the biggest challenge is scheduling cases in a way cuts down on the number of people in a courtroom at one time.

"I think what you'll see in June is a very effective use of the space that we have in Wake County," Ridgeway said. "To just simply spread people out, spread our functions out into a number of different courtrooms."

Signs will be posted to make the rules clear.

"It will be as detailed as stickers on the pews in the courtroom so that people know, sit here, sit here, sit here, so they keep a safe distance apart," Rader said.

"We want to make sure that the citizens are comfortable and confident that we have their best interests in mind, too," Ridgeway added.

One of the biggest concerns is how to handle jury trials. Ridgeway said they are working on a plan to space jurors out both in jury selection and during trials, but it will likely be later in the summer before that plan is in place and ready to go.

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