The Judicial Response To COVID-19

The Judicial sector is one sector no one would immediately think of when considering the COVID-19 virus and its effects. Nevertheless, its effects were felt in the Judicial system, and reaction to the pandemic was swift, preventing it from paralyzing the system.

At the emergence of the virus in March 2020, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators quickly put together a Rapid Response Team (RRT), involving the NCSC, and laid down protocols, safety measures by the CDC to ensure a continuous process. This enabled state courts to proceed with dealings and also created the framework to ease the return to court, once possible. 

There have been innovations to help this movement, largely under 3 touch points – communications and funding, court management, and technology. This ensures that no aspect disrupts the entire system.

Efforts in place to ensure safety measures are

  • Granting extensions for court deadlines and fees payments;
  • Suspending in-person proceedings, following up with virtual access;
  • Restricting entrances to court;
  • Ending or restricting jury trials;
  • Publishing of updated and recent guides and protocols.

On August 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the state of Hawai’i pushed for an order concerning the extension of the time, for arraignments and other needful processes, this was done and was to expire on February 14, 2021, however, it has been renewed further till March 31, 2021, with hopes that the effects of the virus continue to reduce.

Furthermore, recently, as the COVID – 19 cases seem to reduce, court operations seem to pick up, though in line with safety practices and as much as possible with the resources.

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