Wisconsin Courts COVID-19 Task Force outlines reopening goals
Most in-person procedures and trials were suspended in March
MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) — The Wisconsin Courts COVID-19 Task Force’s final report includes a framework to guide counties and circuit courts in reopening facilities and returning to in-person proceedings that have been suspended since March.
The recommendations, released today, acknowledge the continued threat of COVID-19 and provide a mechanism for county officials to make decisions specific to their current conditions.
The 24-member Supreme Court task force included medical consultants from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, as well as local court officials, including La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke and Chippewa County Circuit Court Clerk Karen Hepfler. Also on the task force were judges, court staff, attorneys and representatives of public defenders, county sheriffs and county attorneys.
County circuit courts are expected to establish stakeholder committees and develop written plans for safe court-related interactions. It is anticipated that the plans will be submitted to the chief judge of judicial district before in-person proceedings and jury trials are reinstated.
The Supreme Court issued orders in March postponing jury trials and temporarily suspending in-person proceedings statewide, with certain limited exceptions. Courts were encouraged to continue proceedings with Zoom videoconferencing or telephone conferences whenever possible.
“This task force has done a tremendous job of assessing a complex situation and providing valuable information and guidance to assist courts and counties of all sizes and locations,” said state Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Drake Roggensack, a member of the task force.
“Although we encourage each county and district to develop plans based on specific regional trends, available resources, and local needs, and to rely upon the advice and counsel of local stakeholder group members, the Director of State Courts Office and the Office of Court Operations are available to provide assistance and resources,” the report concludes.
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