PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The coronavirus pandemic and social distancing are causing a wave of disruptions in the U.S. justice system, with state and federal courts, across the country rescheduling trials and other legal proceedings to help contain the virus.
Arizona courts are set to make big changes during this time. Effective Wednesday, March 25, 2020, the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County will prohibit physical access to all Superior Court buildings through April 8.
The new order restricts access to Superior Court unless:
• an event is constitutionally or statutorily required to be held in-person, in which case only those participating in the specific event may attend. (This includes parties, witnesses, victims, sheriff’s deputies, detention officers, law enforcement officers, parents in juvenile delinquency matters and lawyers. Any person intending to be present at a court proceeding who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, has exposure to COVID-19, or has symptoms of COVID-19 as defined by the U.S. Center for Disease Control must contact via telephone or email the assigned division to arrange to appear telephonically, have theirappearance waived, or have the proceeding reset.)
• the Court is located inside the Valleywise Behavioral Health Facilities or the Arizona State Hospital
• the person is an employee of the Branch, Clerk of Superior Court, The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, or another county agency housed within a court building
• the person is a contractor or other person authorized by the Presiding Judge to enter the court facility for exceptions listed in the Order.
Judge Joseph Welty also issued an order to suspend all current sitting state and county grand juries between March 25 and April 8, 2020. New petit and grand jury selection has already been halted through April 17, 2020 by order of the Arizona Supreme Court.
Members of the public will continue to receive summonses for jury service because postcards notifying prospective jurors are sent four to six weeks in advance. Persons summonsed for a date later than April 17, 2020 are strongly encouraged to reply as soon as possible so the Court has their current contact information in the event future electronic alerts are sent.
The courts tell us that utilization of existing technology, combined with the efforts of employees, resulted in a 60 percent reduction of visitors to all Court locations by close of business on Monday, March 23. The Maricopa Superior Court, the nation’s fourth largest trial court, announced a 40 percent reduction in foot traffic at the end of last week as early measures to safeguard against COVID19 took effect.
The court will continue to hold telephonic hearings and remain available to process all case types and non appearance proceedings. For more information on operations of the Judicial Branch in Maricopa County during the public health emergency, you can find information online.
All non-case related activities scheduled in the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix, Evo A. DeConcini Courthouse in Tucson, and the John M. Roll Courthouse in Yuma, are canceled until further notice. This includes naturalization ceremonies, attorney admission ceremonies, mock trials, CLE events, school tours, and all other non-case related gatherings.
The Customer Service counters in the Clerk’s Offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma will be closed to in-person business but will be available telephonically and new filings can be delivered by mail. This temporary closure is effective through May 1, 2020.
Changes are happening constantly. The Administrative Office of the Courts is posting individual court updates at www.azcourts.gov/covid19 and posting updates on Twitter (@AZCourts) and Facebook (ArizonaSupremeCourt).
[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Arizona]