Two New Orders Issued by the Supreme Court of Kentucky

Written by:  Marianna Michael

On July 27, 2020, the Supreme Court of Kentucky entered two new orders to provide continuing guidance on the functions of courts during COVID-19.

The first order, Administrative Order 2020-55, replaces Administrative Orders 2020-42 and 2020-47 in their entirety.  The Order makes the following provisions: 

Court Facilities

  • Entrance to court facilities are limited to: (i) attorneys, parties, witnesses, jurors, domestic violence advocates and others scheduled/approved to attend in-person trials; (ii) individuals seeking emergency protective orders, interpersonal protective orders, emergency custody orders, and involuntary commitments; (iii) judicial sales attendees; (iv) individuals with an appointment to gain access to a physical file; (v) individuals with an appointment for driver’s license services; and (vi) individuals reporting for a scheduled drug test.
  • Signs will be posted around court facilities advising individuals that they must wear a mask to enter the building and prohibiting individuals who: (i) have any symptoms of COVID-19; (ii) received instruction to self-quarantine; or (iii) have been diagnosed or had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
  • Individuals required to make payments or report to the court will be provided with a phone number or email address to make arrangements to reschedule or appear remotely.
  • Individuals may only enter court facilities without an X-ray machine with transparent purses or bags, unless items in the bag are medically necessary.

Courts

  • Courts shall continue to conduct all civil and criminal matters remotely using available telephonic and video technology.
  • If a judge determines that in-person attendance is required: (i) courtroom attendance must be limited to necessary parties; (ii) judges must ensure social distancing is observed in the courtroom; (iii) judges must enforce the use of facial coverings in courtrooms; (ii) individuals with COVID-19 symptoms must be allowed to participate remotely; (iv) members of the public and media must have access to view non-confidential proceedings; (v) proceedings must be scheduled to reduce the number of individuals entering, exiting, and gathering; and (vi) judges must ensure that all exposed surfaces are thoroughly cleaned after every proceeding.
  • Court orders, summonses, and subpoenas requiring remote attendance of parties have the same effect as required in-person attendance.
  • Attorneys must continue preparing and litigating cases in accordance with health and safety guidelines.
  • The Order does not delay or effectively stay any proceedings in contravention to the rights protected by Section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution.

Office of Circuit Court Clerk

  • The Office of Circuit Court Clerk will open from 9 AM to one hour before normal closing time.
  • Filings should be eFiled, but may also be mailed or conventionally filed using a drop-box provided outside the facility.
  • Payments for costs, fines, fees and restitution should be made by money order mailed to the Office, or by cash or credit card by calling the Office. Pre-payable citations can be paid online through ePay.
  • Individuals posting bond should contact the Office for further instruction.
  • Limited driver’s license services have resumed: (i) with an appointment for any in-person driver’s license services; (ii) driver’s licenses that expire between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020 must be renewed remotely; and (iii) permit testing and road testing will resume at the Kentucky State Police’s discretion.

Staffing, Protocols for KCOJ Employees and Officials, and Local Protocols

  • Staffing remains limited, with those able to work remotely being directed to do so.
  • KCOJ officials and employees must abide by health and safety guidelines.
  • The AOC Director or designee and each chief circuit judge are required to ensure that proper arrangements are made for the safety of their staff.
  • Each chief district and chief circuit judge must develop local protocols regarding additional restrictions consistent with the Order.

Administrative Order 2020-56, replacing Administrative Order 2020-44 in its entirety, addresses court proceedings.

Juries

  • Juror qualification forms shall be reviewed prior to the first day of service. Jurors shall have their service postponed or be excused if: (i) they are ill or in a high-risk category or are caring for someone who is ill or in a high-risk category; (ii) wearing facial coverings will pose serious threats to their health or safety; and (iii) they suffered economic hardship due to COVID-19, such as becoming unemployed, and serving on a jury would cause further economic hardship.
  • Criminal jury trials may resume August 1, 2020.
  • Civil jury trials may resume October 1, 2020.
  • Jury trials and voir dire must be conducted at a court facility in the county.
  • Petit juror orientation shall be conducted by requiring petit jurors: (i) to read juror reporting information posted on each county’s juror information page; (ii) to participate in a remote video or audio orientation using telephonic or video technology such as Zoom, Skype, etc., which shall be conducted in the same manner as an in-person juror orientation; or (iii) to attend orientation as part of the voir dire proceedings.
  • Grand Jury proceedings may be conducted remotely via available telephonic or video technology, subject to applicable Rules of Criminal Procedure.
  • The Order enumerates health and safety precautions that shall be enforced for grand jury proceedings and jury trials.

Civil Matters

Evictions

  • With respect to evictions from “covered dwellings” subject to the CARES Act: (i) residents must receive 30 days’ notice to vacate prior to a filing of eviction; (ii) fees, penalties or other charges that accrued during the period between March 27, 2020, and July 25, 2020, are prohibited when those fees, penalties, or other charges are related to nonpayment of rent; and (iii) actions for eviction filed prior to March 27, 2020 are not subject to the CARES Act.
  • With respect to evictions from “federally backed multi-family properties” subject to the CARES Act solely for nonpayment of rent or fees, penalties, or other charges related to nonpayment of rent: (i) evictions and notices to vacate are prohibited during the period of forbearance; (ii) 30 days’ notice to vacate is required prior to a filing of eviction; and (iii) fees, penalties, or other charges that accrued during the period of forbearance when those fees, penalties, or other charges are related to nonpayment of rent are prohibited.
  • All eviction filings must be accompanied by Form AOC-1027.
  • This Order does not suspend or otherwise excuse an individual’s duty to pay rent or to comply with any other obligation under tenancy.

Judicial Sales

  • Judicial Sales may resume when the Order becomes effective and with authorization of the Chief Circuit Judge.
  • All in-person sales must meet the health and safety measures required by the Supreme Court of Kentucky.
  • When conducting sales in-person, the advertisement shall include a brief description of the COVID-19 health and safety measures that must be observed.

Family Matters, Criminal Matters, Night Traffic Court, and Local Protocols

  • The following child support matters shall have priority until October 1, 2020: (i) cases determining paternity; (ii) cases establishing initial child support obligations; (iii) cases that are being reopened; and (iv) cases in which the obligee’s only financial support is income from employment or unemployment benefits, maintenance support, non-public benefits, or child support.
  • Remaining child support matters are continued until after October 1, 2020 unless a judge determines otherwise in his or her discretion.
  • All show cause dockets for payment of fines and court costs shall be scheduled no sooner than November 1, 2020.
  • Judges should continue to issue summonses or notices to appear in lieu of bench warrants, unless the judge has good cause to believe a defendant will not appear voluntarily upon a summons or notice to appear.
  • Night traffic courts are suspended in Jefferson County until further notice.
  • Each chief district and chief circuit judge must develop local protocols regarding additional restrictions consistent with the Order.

Both Administrative Orders 2020-55 and 2020-56 will go into effect on August 1, 2020 and until further Order of the Supreme Court of Kentucky.

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