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Milwaukee County courts suspend proceedings as pandemic precaution

The Milwaukee County Circuit Court is suspending a number of proceedings for three weeks as a coronavirus precaution.

Chief Judge Mary Triggiano issued an order regarding emergency temporary measures on Saturday. The order limiting the number of face-to-face appearances is effective starting Monday. It will remain in place through April 3 or until further order of the court.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin jumped to 27 on Saturday as Wisconsin health officials reported eight new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that includes four new cases in Milwaukee County. Winnebago County also reported its first case. Two more cases were reported in Waukesha County and another in Dane County.

The impact on each branch’s operations is detailed below. Milwaukee County also canceled new juries starting Monday through April 3.

The courthouse and the Sojourner Family Peace Center Restraining Order Clinic will remain open during the emergency period.

Adjourned children’s court cases

  • All cases with hearings currently scheduled through April 3 at the Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center will be adjourned on the record and all applicable time limits will be tolled.
  • Adjourned hearings include plea, evidentiary, dispositional, permanency review, sanction, adoption, guardianship, revision and extension hearings; county ordinance violations; Unified Court, Family Drug Treatment Court and Healthy Infant Court hearings and staffings.
  • All temporary restraining orders currently in place involving a petition filed by a child, on behalf of a child or against a child will be extended, and all time limits will be tolled until the rescheduled injunction hearing.
  • Requests for extension will be granted for up to 30 days without a hearing and scheduled for a hearing prior to the expiration of the extension.
  • Cases involving emergency or special circumstances will be brought to the court’s attention and handled at the individual judge’s discretion.

Continuing children’s court cases

  • The Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center will continue to hear temporary physical custody hearings for Children in Need of Protection and Services cases, delinquency cases, capias and warrant returns.
  • Court participation in hearings during the emergency guideline period will be limited to phone conference calls that include the assistant district attorney, GAL, attorney for the parent/child, parents, guardians, child, representative of the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services or Division of Youth and Family Services, CASA, victims and victim-witness advocates.
  • Incarcerated parties will not appear for any hearing happening through April 3.
  • Courts will accept verbal or written consent to act obtained by an attorney on behalf of a client.
  • Cases involving emergency or special circumstances will be brought to the court’s attention and handled at the individual judge’s discretion.

Large claim civil and probate

  • All matters requiring in-person appearances, including jury trials, court trials or other contested or partially contested hearing where evidence will be taken, are suspended until after April 30.
  • Any matters set for a date on or prior to April 30 will be rescheduled for either a status/scheduling conference or alternative hearing date at the discretion of the judge hearing the matter.
  • Any non-evidentiary hearing that can be done by phone will proceed as scheduled, but any matter may be rescheduled at the discretion of the judge hearing the case if the judge believes an in-person appearance is required.
  • No one may appear in person for hearings between now and April 30 unless it is an emergency matter with express advance approval from the assigned judge. The court expects to limit these cases to judicial review of domestic abuse or harassment restraining orders, requests for stay of writs of restitution/assistance or similar matters.

Small claims

  • All small claims appearances are suspended until after April 3.
  • Any matters currently set on or before April 3 will be rescheduled via written notice from the clerk.
  • No one may appear in person for hearings between now and April 3, unless it is an emergency matter with the express advance approval of the assigned judge or court commissioner.

Weddings

  • All courthouse weddings are canceled until after April 3.
  • Any wedding party unable to make alternative wedding arrangements should contact the Milwaukee County Clerk’s Office at 414-278-4067.

Guardianship/protective placement and mental commitment hearings

  • Mental commitment probably cause hearings will occur via phone between now and April 3.
  • Calls will occur Monday through Thursday during the week of March 16, and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the weeks of March 23 and March 30.
  • Mental commitment final and extension hearings will occur via phone on Fridays as previously scheduled.
  • Watts hearings are suspended until after April 3. Any matters scheduled on or before April 3 will be rescheduled by the clerk.
  • Guardianship/protective placement pending hearings and new filings are suspended until April unless it is an emergency matter with the express advance approval of the assigned judge or court officer.
  • Call 414-278-4444 with scheduling questions.

Family cases

  • All contested matters requiring in-person appearances are suspended until after April 3. Clerks in individual branches will schedule proceedings as the court’s calendar permits.
  • Contact individual branches if parties wish to have evidentiary hearings by phone.
  • Any hearing that can be done by phone will proceed as scheduled, including scheduling conferences, status conferences and motion hearings.
  • All petitions for domestic violence injunctions, child abuse injunctions, harassment injunctions and temporary restraining orders will be heard as scheduled in person or by phone.
  • All stipulated divorces will be adjourned until after April 3.

Criminal cases

  • All matters requiring in-person appearances are suspended until after April 3. Clerks will reschedule matters set on or before April 3 for either a status/scheduling conference or an alternative hearing date, at the discretion of the judge assigned to each matter.
  • Any non-evidentiary hearing that can be done by phone or video conference will proceed as scheduled between now and April 3. Matters include scheduling conferences, status conferences, pretrial conferences, motion hearings and oral decisions. Any matter can be rescheduled at the discretion of the judge if he or she believes an in-person appearance is required.
  • All proceedings involving out-of-custody defendants are canceled until after April 3. Proceedings may be heard by phone or video conference if practical.
  • All non-jury trial proceedings involving in-custody defendants who are not being held on any basis other than the case at bar will proceed as scheduled. Judges have discretion to deviate from this guideline as deemed appropriate.
  • All orders-to-produce for inmates in the Wisconsin State Prison System are canceled until after April 3.
  • No new orders-to-produce will be issued until after April 3.
  • Out-of-Custody Intake Court (Room 221 in the Safety Building) is closed until after April 3.
  • Individuals who post bail or who are released from jail and ordered into Out-of-Custody Intake court will be ordered in after April 3.
  • Initial appearances for in-custody defendants will be adjourned until after April 3. All preliminary hearings will proceed as scheduled.
  • Video-conferencing proceedings will proceed as scheduled.
  • All bail forfeiture hearings are canceled until further notice.
  • For all rescheduled hearings, the clerk will mail notice of the new hearing date to the parties.

Pretrial supervision, early interventions and adult drug treatment court

  • All face-to-face supervision with JusticePoint programs is canceled until after April 3. Defendants will be supervised by phone contact.
  • All drug treatment court staffings, hearings and face-to-face supervision contacts are canceled until after April 3. DTC participants should call the drug testing line at 414-223-1926 and report to Wisconsin Community Services if selected for testing.
  • All diversion, deferred prosecution and treatment alternatives and diversions staffings and hearings are canceled until after April 3. EI participants will be supervised by phone, and drug testing and PBTs are suspended until after April 3.
  • All veteran’s treatment court and mental health treatment court staffings and hearings are canceled until after April 3.
  • All individuals being monitored by Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring will only report for the purpose of downloading SCRAM device information.

Contact the appropriate branch for information about a specific case.

In Waukesha County, Chief Judge Jennifer Dorow and the Waukesha County judges have suspended jury services scheduled from March 16 through April 12.

Jurors summoned for this time period should not report to the courthouse for jury service.

Any jurors scheduled to appear after April 12 will be provided with updates as soon as practicable. For updates on juror service, visit www.waukeshacounty.gov/juryservices. General courts inquiries should be directed to (262) 970-6676.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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