COVID-19 forces judges to adjust courtroom activities

SIDNEY — The three Shelby County judges are adjusting courtroom activities to comply with health guidelines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are doing the best to limit traffic in to the courthouse and still continue to do the business of the court,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Jim Stevenson. “All persons entering the courthouse will be stopped at security and asked the purpose for coming to the courthouse. Anyone without official business will be turned away.

“If a person does have a purpose to be in the courthouse, security will contact the appropriate office to confirm that person actually has to be there. Security will then determine whether to let the person go further or whether someone from the office can come to security to address the person’s need.

“Obviously if a person appears ill they will not be allowed in the courthouse; we have posted warning signs at the entrance directing persons that are ill to not even enter the building,” said Stevenson.

Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Jeff Beigel said all nonemergency cases will be continued until further notice.

“The Probate and Juvenile Court has developed a continuum of flexible responses in case the public health crisis escalates. The continuum of responses is intended to protect public health, to maintain essential court functions, and to continue to protect the rights of all individuals subject to the authority of the court,” said Beigel.

“The Sidney Municipal Court is open as we continue to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Judge Gary Carter.

Guidelines for the Sidney Municipal Court’s operations include:

• Criminal and traffic arraignments will be continued for at least 45 days.

• In cases in which the defendant previously waived his/her right to a speedy trial, all proceedings (pretrials, status hearings, show cause hearings and trials) will be continued for at least six weeks.

• All civil trials, including small claims hearings, will be continued for six weeks.

• All eviction hearings will be continued for at least three weeks. All hearings currently scheduled on or after April 13, 2020, shall remain as currently scheduled.

• Garnishment hearings and preliminary hearings will proceed uninterrupted.

• All other scheduled hearings will be rescheduled and a notice of the new court date will be sent to the address the court has on file.

• The court will continue to see the majority of jailed defendants via video conferencing.

Guidelines for the Juvenile and Probate Courts include:

• The Probate and Juvenile Clerks offices will not take in-person filings, including, but not limited to, original complaints, pleadings, writs, petitions, proposed orders, certification and document requests, etc. All filings with the Probate or Juvenile Clerk’s offices are to be made by U.S. mail, facsimile, or email. T

The following exceptions apply to court access:

– Persons of the general public applying for juvenile civil protection orders or filing a mental illness affidavit.

– Title searchers who need access to the Probate Clerk’s area for their purposes.

– Attorneys who need to pick up their mail located in the Probate Clerk’s office for the next seven days. Thereafter the Clerk will not be using those mail slots.

– Parents, custodians and/or guardians and children who scheduled and required to be present at hearings.

– Required participants in abuse, neglect and dependency matters for scheduled hearings.

– Law enforcement requests for search warrants.

– Parties applying for a marriage license who have fully completed their application online through Probate Court’s website, and who need to appear at the Clerk’s Office to complete the process of providing proof of ID and, if applicable, their prior divorce/dissolution and paying the $76 cash fee. The court will not be performing marriage ceremonies until further order.

– Any other exception permitted by the court on a case-by-case basis. Call the Juvenile or Probate Clerk’s office for questions.

• Unless otherwise requested, all return mailings from the court shall use the same method by which the filings were delivered to the court.

• During this time, all required monetary payments or deposits, including original filings and any other payments, are to be paid by check or money order and delivered to the court by the US Mail to Post Office Box 4187, Sidney, OH 45365.

• All U.S. Mailings, Federal Express or similar services should be addressed to the Probate Court or Juvenile Court and mailed to Post Office Box 4187, Sidney, OH 45365.

• All fax filings should be sent to 937-498-7260 and should include a cover letter identifying whether it is for the Probate or Juvenile Court.

* All e-mail filings should be sent to and should include a cover letter identifying whether it is for the Probate or Juvenile Court.

Guidelines Stevenson is following for Common Pleas Court include:

Civil Cases: All trials, whether trials to court or to jury scheduled for March and April are continued. The court will issue continuance orders and file the continuance in each individual case file. Those matters will be re-scheduled.

The court will conduct business that can be done by telephone or other electronic media. Scheduling conferences, pretrials, summary judgment motions and other orders that do not need live testimony, etc. will be conducted.

The goal of the court is to continue operations in a manner that gets the work done without live appearances in court. If it can be done by video conference or by telephone that will be attempted.

Criminal cases: Much of the criminal case load is handled by the prosecutor and the public defender. The court has met with these individuals and are working out procedure to handle criminal cases along the same guidelines to minimize person to person contact and conduct business electronically. Pretrial conferences and status conferences will be conducted by telephone or video conference.

Domestic relations: Domestic relations cases will be handled in a manner similar to other civil proceedings. Contested proceedings for March and April will be continued. Matters that can be handled electronically will proceed. Attorneys should contact the domestic relations staff to discuss how to proceed.

• Anything that can be e-filed must be e-filed. Any document that cannot be e-filed should be mailed to the Clerk by U.S. Post. If you have questions about filing you may phone the Clerk’s office.

“As you may have guessed from watching the news this is a constantly evolving process almost on a day to day basis,” said Stevenson.