The wheels of justice continue to spin during the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit in a different way than any time before.
“Technically, we are open,” said Village of Walden and Town of Montgomery Justice Raynard Ozman.
If a case is filed on an emergency basis, the court will meet in person and practice social distancing. Less pressing proceedings are handled virtually via Skype and Microsoft Teams.
Ozman has always employed a rotational system for off-hour arraignments, which has recently expanded. If there is a matter that needs attention when the court is not in session, there is always a judge and courtroom where the matter can be heard. This can be held publicly in person or virtually. Parties will appear all together on the screen or meet in public if necessary. The matters are also recorded.
“We’re certainly ever vigilant of the need to balance the continued court operations while protecting the staff and the public at large,” Ozman said. “We handle that based upon the science that’s handed down.”
The courts continue to explore ways to better serve the public safely. They are analyzing air filtration and lighting in courtrooms. Ozman added that the Village of Walden and Town of Montgomery Justice Courts continue to follow guidelines from the state, county, federal government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Some are conflicting and they’re ever changing,” he said. “But we always follow them as practices and we do that always for the safe administration of justice.”
COVID-19 has created many challenges for the courts but they have found ways to adapt.
“We know it’s primarily an airborne, respiratory virus,” Ozman said. “But then it can spread through other mediums. So we take this into account for court sessions. Hence the social distancing, hence the ventilation. The doors are left open. The lack of sharing of different instruments whether they be microphones or pens or chairs or documents. If you take all of that into consideration, you put together a best practices policy for still being able to get business done but limit the risk to the absolute minimum.”