Ellis County’s district court, part of the 23rd Judicial District, closed to the public as of Thursday.
The dockets for the district’s three courtrooms in the Ellis County Courthouse, 107 W. 12th, are normally busy all day long. But that is no longer the case, by order of the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday evening.
The last day of normal operations for 23rd Judicial District Chief Judge Glenn Braun, Judge Blake Bittle and the three magistrate judges, Brendon Boone, Douglas Bigge and Richard Flax, was Tuesday, said Court Administrator Amanda Truan. The court serves Ellis, Rooks, Gove and Trego counties.
The Supreme Court ordered jury trials to proceed to completion, but there are none underway in the 23rd, said Truan.
The 23rd has six administrative employees, and the number who are working on any given day will vary, she said, depending on the amount of work.
“We are down to bare bones,” said Truan. Magistrate judges, who normally travel to Hays for hearings, will remain in their home areas for now, she said.
“This doesn’t put any case on hold, we just can’t have any hearings,” Truan said. “We’re still opening cases, processing documents, people can call in, they can make payments, we’re opening mail. You just can’t walk in and do business.”
The closing comes after the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday issued Administrative Order 2020-PR-016 directing all district and appellate courts to cease all but emergency operations until further order.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, at 1 p.m. Thursday, said Kansas had 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Johnson County had 16, Wyandotte County had eight, there were two each in Leavenworth and Morris counties, and one each in Butler, Cherokee, Douglas, Franklin, Jackson and Linn counties.
There are two out-of-state residents reported in Ford and Miami counties, but those numbers are included in their home states.
In its order, the Supreme Court said jury trials can proceed to conclusion, but no others can be scheduled until further order of the court.
“The Supreme Court anticipates the order to remain in effect for at least two weeks, at which time it will be re-evaluated,” said a news release from the court.
“This is an extraordinary measure to match the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “We have a duty to protect the people who come into our courthouses and courtrooms, as well as our employees and judges. This action allows courts to fulfill core functions while reducing in-person contact.”
Emergency operations outlined in the Administrative Order include: determining probable cause for persons arrested without a warrant; first appearances; bond hearings; warrants for adults and juveniles; juvenile detention hearings; care and treatment emergency orders; protection from abuse and protection from stalking temporary orders; child in need of care hearings and orders; considering petitions to waive notice for abortions by minors; commitment of sexually violent predators; and isolation and quarantine hearings and orders.
The order also suspends for now all judicial statutes of limitations and statutory time standards or deadlines. And no action will be dismissed for lack of prosecution, said the release.
“It is through our collective action that we will slow COVID-19’s spread,” Luckert said. “The courts will continue to serve the people of Kansas, but in a way that protects all of us.”