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In-person proceedings resume Monday in Waukesha County courts

All in-person proceedings, with the exception of jury trials, will resume on Monday at the Waukesha County Courthouse and Waukesha County Clerk of Court’s offices.

Services will be resumed under an operational plan with safety requirements intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Judge Jennifer Dorow, the presiding judge in Waukesha County and the chief judge of the Third Judicial District, issued an order on Friday calling for these safety measures:

General

  • The public can view courtroom proceedings using video that will be live streamed tin another large room or by using Zoom online videoconferencing or YouTube.
  • All court officials will take reasonable steps to continue conducting remote proceedings with all participants encouraged to appear by Zoom or phone.
  • When possible, courtrooms will be supplied with personal-protective gear, as well as Plexiglas that will be installed on the bench when necessary and between counsel tables. Spaces for social-distancing seating will be marked on benches in each courtroom gallery.

Vulnerable populations

  • Every court official will use orders setting hearings, dockets notices and other communications to notify individuals who are in vulnerable populations that they can request and receive special accommodation from the court.
  • At-risk people who are scheduled to appear in court will be accommodated by advising the court and clerks so that appropriate steps can be taken in each case.

Screening

  • Each person entering the courthouse will be directed to a large sign with COVID-19 screening questions and asked to perform a self assessment.
  • Only those who, in their own judgment, answer the questions in the negative shall proceed through security screening and enter the courthouse.

Face masks

  • Everyone in courtrooms, jury rooms and other court-related confined spaces will wear face coverings unless a court official specifically concludes on the record that it’s necessary for a person not to wear a face covering during the person’s testimony in order for a court official or jury to weigh the person’s credibility.

Social distancing

  • All who aren’t from the same household must keep six feet apart from each other while in the court building.
  • No more than two people who aren’t from the same household will be allowed on an elevator together.
  • Restrooms will have maximum-capacity numbers posted on their doors.
  • Public common areas will be closed to the public or marked for appropriate social distancing.
  • Courtrooms, entryways, hallways, conference rooms, jury rooms, elevators, jury-assembly rooms, rooms for the voir dire of juries and any other locations where court participants may congregate will be marked to show where people should stand to maintain six-foot social distancing.
  • The court will make exceptions to allow attorneys and clients to deviate from social-distance protocols to consult each other in the courtroom when necessary.
  • In every courtroom, counsel tables, witness stands, judges’ benches and seating for clerks, court reporters and bailiffs have been arranged to allow at least six feet between each space or have been outfitted with Plexiglas.

Gallery

  • The maximum number of persons permitted in the gallery of each courtroom will be  posted.
  • The maximum capacity figure for each courtroom will be monitored and enforced by court staff.
  • The gallery of the courtroom will be marked to show where people should sit to maintain proper appropriate social distancing.

Sanitation and hygiene

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed around the courthouse.
  • Disinfectant wipes or spray will be provided for each courtroom and jury room.
  • CDC flyers listing steps to maintain appropriate hygiene, social distancing and public safety will be posted at various places on each floor of the court building.

Durow said court officials consulted stakeholders and public health officials on the plan to find a balance between providing access to the courts and protecting health and safety. Waukesha County’s plan also incorporates many of the recommendations made in the Wisconsin Courts COVID-19 Task Force report.

Information about Waukesha County’s operations and hours are posted on the county’s website and will be revised as needed.

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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