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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky courts will open back up starting June 1, resuming civil and criminal cases that have, for the most part, been on hold since mid-March, Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. announced on Tuesday.

Well, sort of.

While criminal and civil dockets will finally resume, they will be limited mostly to remote hearings via phone or video, according to a press release. Grand jury proceedings will also resume in June, though the jurors will meet remotely.

Jury trials, however, will not resume until August.

If a judge determines that an in-person court hearing is necessary, just the parties involved will be allowed inside and, even then, only up to 33 percent capacity. Social distancing is also required.

And anyone going to court for any reason must wear a face covering, including employees.

The media and public will have access to the hearing through audio or video.

“Our priority is to implement a limited, phased reopening that will allow greater access to the courts while keeping court personnel and the public safe through social distancing and other precautions,” Minton said in the press release.  

The courts have been mostly shutdown since March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidelines as of June 1 include:

  • Entrance to court facilities is limited to individuals with a scheduled in-person hearing and those filing emergency protective orders, interpersonal protective orders and emergency custody orders.  
  • Members of the public are prohibited from bringing purses or similarly enclosed bags into court facilities, unless items in the bags are medically necessary.
  • Telework will be encouraged for any employee who is able to do so.
  • Staffing will be limited to 50%, unless an exception is granted by the Department of Human Resources.

“Producing the reopening plan took an intense effort,” Minton said. “As you know, the majority of court matters are not voluntary. People can choose whether to eat at a restaurant or go shopping, but in most instances they don’t get to choose whether they go to court. We’re incorporating as many of the governor’s requirements as possible into our orders to maintain a high standard of safety for our employees, elected officials and the public.”

Minton also said the state Supreme Court will soon issue specific guidance on driver’s license services and certain court matters, such as evictions and jury service.

Civil and criminal dockets have been postponed except for hearings regarding domestic violence, emergency custody, in-custody arraignments, bond motions and a few others.

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Digital Reporter

Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.