WARSAW — The Kosciusko and Whitley County courts are curtailing operations through May 4. This is after the Indiana Supreme Court approved requests for both county courts for emergency relief pursuant to Indiana Administrative Rule 17 to operate under emergency conditions.
Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed and Whitley County Superior Court Judge Douglas Fahl are the presiding judges for the emergency relief filings.
In both Kosciusko and Whitley Counties, all civil and criminal jury trials, including those involving a request for a fast and speedy trial, will be continued until May 4 to eliminate gatherings of large groups of people and to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Both of the counties’ courts are directed to review no later than April 17 whether continued suspension of trials is necessary and if it is not, to resume jury trials no later than May 4 to allow adequate notification of jury pools. If the counties’ courts believe continued suspension is necessary, they may petition the Indiana Supreme Court to continue the extension.
The Indiana Supreme Court has also authorized the tolling of all laws, rules and procedures setting time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings, public health and mental health matters. Further, no interest shall be due or charged during this tolled period.
For Kosciusko County courts, the courts may limit proceedings in all civil cases that are determined as necessary or emergency to the extent consistent with the parties’ constitutional rights. Urgent matters include protective order cases, emergency CHINS proceedings, detention hearings in “JD” and “JC” cases and emergency custody and visitation motions. The county’s courts may also limit criminal proceedings except emergency motions and petitions, bond hearings, initial hearings, emergency hearings, change-of-plea hearings, sentencing hearings and any other criminal proceeding deemed necessary or urgent by the courts.
Through the order, all Kosciusko and Whitley County courts may also limit spectators in courtrooms to provide adequate social distancing.
Kosciusko County’s order filing also states that the courts may also post signage at all public entry points to judicial facilities advising people not to enter the building if they have:
- Visited China, Iran, South Korea, any European countries or any other high-risk countries identified by the CDC in the previous 14 days;
- Resided with or been in close contact with someone who has been in any of those countries within the previous 14 days;
- Traveled domestically within the United States where the virus has sustained widespread community transmission;
- Been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency;
- Been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus; or
- A fever, cough or shortness of breath
For the Whitley County courts, the Indiana Supreme Court has authorized the continuation of all criminal pre-trial conferences and non-essential hearings; hold pre-trial and discovery status hearings by counsel only; allow attorney-only conferences whenever possible without the requirement of a motion; and have defendants appear via teleconference or video conference from jail for any hearings. All non-essential civil hearings will also be continued.
Kosciusko County courts must file a status update no later than April 20 to inform the Indiana Supreme Court of whether there is an ongoing need for emergency relief.
Whitley County courts must also file a status update on an ongoing need for emergency relief no later than May 1.