In re Response To The Covid-19 Pandemic, 112020 ARSC

Opinion Judge:PERCURIAM.
Case Date:November 20, 2020
Court:Supreme Court of Arkansas

2020 Ark. 384


Supreme Court of Arkansas

November 20, 2020


In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of Arkansas delivered previous per curiam orders implementing emergency precautions to help protect the public from unnecessary risks. On March 11, 2020, Governor Hutchinson declared a "State of Emergency" for Arkansas related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which remains in effect. The courts of the State of Arkansas have remained open and shall continue to remain open. Today, we announce the following new protocols to maintain the safety of jurors, litigants, attorneys, court personnel and the public.

Public health officials in Arkansas have identified an increase of COVID-19 positive tests and hospitalizations. Therefore, we hereby suspend until January 15, 2021, jury trials that have not begun. Jury trials that are currently ongoing shall be completed.

The Arkansas Supreme Court does not take lightly the decision to halt jury trials. It weighs on this court that we are exposing the hundreds of citizen jurors around the state who are being summoned to do their civic jury duty as well as increasing our court personnel's risk of daily exposure to the virus. The dramatic uptick in cases in Arkansas requires us, as leaders of the state judiciary, to do our part to help protect Arkansans.

This court emphasizes that, in the interest of justice, it is vital that judges continue to move cases forward, either through the use of technology by virtual or telephonic hearings, or through in-person hearings that meet the criteria for safe gatherings established by the Arkansas Department of Health. While the safety of litigants, attorneys, court personnel, and the public is of the utmost importance, it is critical to the proper functioning of the courts that judges and attorneys work together on issues and cases that can be resolved, in whole or in part, and that as many cases as possible continue to progress safely toward resolution without undue delay.

Criminal matters, such as initial appearances, detention hearings, arraignments, omnibus hearings, suppression hearings, plea hearings and sentencing hearings shall continue to take place either by videoconference or in person, as scheduled by the presiding judge. All civil hearings and other court proceedings shall take place either by videoconference or in person, as...

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