By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – Anyone who enters the Canadian County Courthouse starting next Monday will be required to wear a face covering and have their temperature taken.
And jury trials won’t resume until September.
These are among procedures listed in an administrative order filed Monday in Canadian County District Court as plans are finalized to reopen the Canadian County Courthouse, 301 N Choctaw Road.
District Judge Jack McCurdy told county commissioners at their regular Monday morning meeting that the courthouse would start to reopen to the public May 18.
Courthouses across Oklahoma have restricted public access for nearly two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
McCurdy, Canadian County’s presiding district judge, signed the three-page administrative order outlining the courthouse “reopening plan” to advise attorneys and the public about specific new procedures.
“The Canadian County Courthouse and Courts shall begin a gradual reopening to the public on May 18, 2020 and will resume dockets in a limited and structured way,” according to the order.
Anyone who’s been diagnosed with or has direct contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 will be prohibited from entering the Canadian County Courthouse.
The order also prohibits anyone with symptoms such as a fever, severe cough or shortness of breath; people who have traveled outside the United States in the past 14 days and those who are quarantined or isolated.
Judge McCurdy thanked Canadian County Emergency Manager Andrew Skidmore for providing face masks for all court personnel. He noted the Canadian County Bar Association paid for 250 masks the public can use.
The judge told commissioners that everyone “in the beginning” will required to wear a mask when in common areas, hallways, courtrooms, and the court clerk’s office.
“I think, at this point in time, that will solve most of our problems,” he said. “We’ll reevaluate where we’re at, at the end of the month.”
McCurdy recommended having two automatic hand-sanitizer stations on the first floor and two on the second floor.
Hard-to-find spray bottles are needed for bailiffs to clean and disinfect the second-floor courtrooms after hearings, the judge added.
Metro Glass is due to finish installing a framed glass divider this week above the long front counter at the first-floor court clerk’s office.
Canadian County Commission Chairman Marc Hader suggested the contractor install a similar glass divider in the district attorney’s office across the hall.
“Since they’re here, we ought to try and get that done,” Hader said. “I think it’s appropriate under the ongoing emergency declaration.”
Similar dividers have been installed in other Canadian County offices.
The new Canadian County District Court administrative order states that:
• Anyone entering the county courthouse until June 30 will be required to wear a mask or face covering and have their temperature taken by a sheriff’s deputy.
• If someone coming to the courthouse registers a temperature of 100.4 degree or more, they won’t be able to enter.
• All court personnel will wear a mask while in a common area of the courthouse and in the courtroom during hearings.
• No more than 10 people – including the judge and court reporter (if needed) – will be allowed in a courtroom.
• Canadian County judges will stagger their dockets to reduce the number of people in the courthouse.
• All jury trials set for June have been canceled and jury trials will resume in September.
• All pleadings and documents, except for emergency matters, will be filed with the court clerk’s office via mail or email. Copies should also be mailed or emailed to the assigned judge.
• No person will be allowed on the second floor of the courthouse unless they have a case set for hearing or have been given permission by a bailiff or judge.
• Criminal matters, with in-custody defendants, will take place by video in all instances unless a different arrangement is authorized by the Court.
• Out-of-custody criminal matters have been continued past June 30 unless other arrangements are made with the assigned judge.
• In all civil, domestic and probate matters, counsel will contact the judge’s bailiff to be given a time slot to appear and any special instructions.
• Parties and counsel in protective order, small claims and traffic cases will check in at the front door entrance and those cases will be called in order so that no more than 10 people are in a courtroom at once.
• Cases at the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center will be staggered to prevent large numbers of people from gathering in the lobby.
Under his order, Judge McCurdy has strongly encouraged conference calls and the use of remote hearings by authorized video.
Social distancing will be observed by all visitors to the courthouse and the north doors will remain closed to everyone except court personnel.
Meanwhile, attorneys and others present in a courtroom will not approach the bench unless requested to do so by the judge.
And people should arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before their scheduled court hearing. They won’t be allowed on the second floor until the assigned hearing time.