Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney talks the coronavirus’ impact on court proceedings

FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WOAY) – The West Virginia Supreme Court issued an order on Monday suspending all but emergency court proceedings until April 10 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mauzy says this means arraignments and must-have hearings will stay take place but trials and jury orientations will have to be pushed back.

“So it’s going to be a pretty big change, and then of course all these things that are being continued now are going to have to be squeezed in down the road and that’s when it’s really going to get difficult to find time to put everything, I think. That’s going to be one problem,” Mauzy said. 

The courthouse plans to use video and phone conferencing as much as possible. 

Here is the full release from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Chief Justice Tim Armstead and the Supreme Court of
Appeals of West Virginia today directed state courts to suspend all but emergency
proceedings through April 10 due to public safety concerns about coronavirus (COVID19).
The court order filed today says all civil and criminal trials and jury orientations
should be postponed. The only exception would be a trial where a criminal defendant’s
speedy trial rights may preclude the postponement.

Emergency hearings arising from abuse and neglect petitions, domestic violence
protective order petitions, mental hygiene petitions, and criminal arraignments and
preliminary hearings with statutory time requirements can still be held, at the discretion
of the presiding judge. Those emergency hearings should be held using technology to
avoid person-to-person contact, if possible.

Circuit clerk’s offices and judicial offices throughout West Virginia where public
access has been restricted should remain available by phone and e-mail and have drop
boxes for court filings. There is a drop box for filings at the Supreme Court of Appeals
of West Virginia Clerk’s Office and the office will remain open.

All cases scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 17, 18, 24, and
25 will be rescheduled.

The Supreme Court order issued Monday supplements the protocol issued March
12. Both are available on the West Virginia Judiciary website:

“We are attempting to address the need to proceed with the critical work of our
court system while also addressing the need to protect public safety. Any proceedings
that either can be continued or that legally and technically can be held via telephone or
video should be addressed in that manner so we can keep as many people outside of
group settings as possible,” Chief Justice Tim Armstead said.
Chief Justice Armstead announced the new order to judicial officers via Skype on
on Monday.

“With the Governor recommending that certain steps be taken, we want to make
sure we are complying with those steps as well as those measures we believe are
necessary to address specific and unique issues,” Chief Justice Armstead said in his
address to circuit judges, family court judges and magistrates.

“The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has great confidence in the ability
of our judges and court staff to handle these charges professionally,” Chief Justice
Armstead said.

The March 12 protocol and notices posted in courthouses will remain in effect to
give directions to parties, attorneys, witnesses, jurors and the public. “This is an ever
changing situation. It is likely we will issue additional or revised protocols,” Chief Justice
Armstead informed judicial officers today.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.