STARKE COUNTY—Chief Justice of Indiana Loretta Rush recently issued an order in response to the petition that was filed by Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall. 

The order recognizes that the ongoing emergency related to the coronavirus outbreak is is inhibiting judicial officials and litigant’s abilities to comply with statutory deadlines and rules of procedure. As result, emergency relief has been granted. 

The order contains the following information and ‘The Court’ refers to the Indiana Supreme Court:

“Being duly advised, the Court grants the petition, declares pursuant to Indiana Administrative Rule 17 that an emergency exists in Starke County, and approves the plan as submitted. The Court further orders as follows to ensure the orderly and fair administration of justice during this emergency, effective March 17, 2020. 

  • The Court authorizes the tolling, from the effective date of this order through Monday, May 4, of all laws, rules, and procedures setting time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings, public health, and mental health matters; all judgements, support, and other orders; and in all other civil and criminal matters before the Starke Circuit Court. Further, no interest shall be due or charged during this tolled period.
  • This Court authorizes immediate suspension of all criminal and civil jury trials, including those with a “fast and speedy” setting requested, through Monday, May 4. The Starke Circuit Court is directed to review no later than Friday, April 17 whether continued suspension is necessary; and if not, to resume jury trials no later than Monday, May 4, to allow adequate notification of the jury pool. If the Starke Circuit Court believe continued suspension is necessary, it may petition this Court to extend the suspension. 

Through Monday, May 4 2020:

  • This Court authorizes continuing and or rescheduling non-essential hearings in criminal cases. The Starke Circuit Court will remain open to process emergency issues, protective orders, mental health, and other necessary criminal and juvenile hearings and other emergency matters.
  • This Court authorizes immediate suspension of all civil proceedings, except protective order proceedings, emergency CHINS proceedings, and time sensitive CHINS fact-finding hearings, emergency juvenile detention hearings, emergency custody and parenting-time motions, and other emergencies or matters deemed “essential in the courts discretion. 
  • This Court authorizes the use of telephonic or video technology in lieu-of in-person appearance, unless a litigant’s due process rights would be violated.
  • Any attorney wishing to appear remotely for any status conference or non-evidentiary hearing in Starke Circuit Court may do so without further leave of court upon filing a “notice of Remote Appearance” in the court in which the matter will be heard.
  • The Starke Circuit Court is authorized, in their discretion and subject to applicable Constitutional limitations, to limit spectators (other than parties to the litigation and their attorneys) in courtrooms to the extent necessary to provide adequate social distancing.
  • The Starke Circuit Court may consider (a) the existence of flu or flu-like symptoms in any attorney, self-represented litigant, or witness expected to testify’ or (b) exposure of such individuals to anyone who has or may have COVID-19; to constitute “good cause” to either appear remotely or continue a court setting, to the extent possible without violating statutory or constitutional rights.
  • This Court authorizes allowing individuals with legitimate court business to stay home and request a continuance by telephone to the respective court if they are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or in a high-risk category. 
  • This Court authorizes signage to be posted at all public entry points to judicial facilities advising individuals not to enter the building if they have:
    • Visited China, Iran, South Korea, any European countries, or any other high-risk countries identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) in the previous 14 days;
    • Resided with or been in close contact with someone who has been in any of those countries within the previous 14 days;
    • Traveled domestically within the United States where the virus has sustained widespread community transmissions;
    • Been asked self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency;
    • Been diagnosed with or had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus, or 
    • Has a fever, cough, or shortness of breath;
  • And to direct bailiffs or court security officers to deny entrance to individuals attempting to enter in violation of these protocols

The Starke Circuit Court shall file a status update no later than Friday, April 24 to inform the Court of whether there is an ongoing need for emergency relief.

The document was approved Thursday, March 19 but made retroactive to Tuesday, March 17.

Click the following link to read the entire Indiana Supreme Court order.

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