With Covid in abeyance, the 4th Judicial District Courthouses will be open for business effective Tuesday, July 6, 2021. After more than 15 months of Coronavirus-related closures, and 14 different Chief Judge Orders setting forth rules and exceptions, all restrictions are finally being lifted in the El Paso County & Teller County Courthouses, and regular jury trials are back on (not applicable to family law cases, where we have no juries).
On June 24, 2021, 4th Judicial District Chief Judge Will Bain issued Chief Judge Order 21-09, Chief Judge Order Regarding Court Operations Beginning July 6, 2021, noting the steady decline of Covid-19 cases in both El Paso and Teller Counties for the past month. Highlights of the Order:
Masks are no longer required in 4th Judicial District courthouses, but:
- “all jail inmates shall be masked when they are in any courthouse” and
- Those who are not fully vaccinated are “encouraged to wear a mask”.
Social distancing is no longer required at the courthouse, but is still encouraged for those not fully vaccinated.
In a sign that Covid may have brought some lasting changes to the practice of law, the order states: “The courts have relied on Webex to conduct most of their business for more than a year. Webex has proven to offer an efficient method of communication for some court appearances, especially those lasting only a few minutes.”
Accordingly, individual judges and magistrates are still encouraged to use Webex for brief court appearances, thereby saving the parties and their lawyers the time and expense of an in-person appearance:
“The judicial officers and staff for the Fourth Judicial District are encouraged to preserve the use of Webex where there are significant efficiencies to be gained for stakeholders, especially for court business not lasting more than several minutes.”
This will likely mean showing up in person for a fully-contested hearing, but optionally using video conferencing for status conferences, and perhaps even brief, uncontested hearings. See these web pages for each division’s Webex links:
Let’s hope that we won’t need any more Chief Judge Orders relating to Covid-19…
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