The U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana, which includes Terre Haute, has suspended all trials through May 1.
Chief Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson on Friday issued a court order that says trials are to be continued.
"Based on the information available to date, including the estimated number of persons infected currently with COVID-19 and the vast number of cases projected to occur in the immediate future," current court operations present substantial health risks to the public," Stinson said in her court order.
Also, the chief judge said, it is not possible to summon a pool of potential jurors and conduct a jury trial in a manner that does not expose potential jurors, attorneys, court staff and litigants to substantial and unacceptable health risks, specifically, the danger of becoming infected with COVID-19.
"Such risks may be significantly mitigated by temporarily modifying court operations," the judge stated in the court order. "And good cause exists to implement temporary changes to Court operations."
For criminal trials, the order states that "delay caused by the continuances implemented by this General Order will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act," the judge wrote, "as the Court specifically finds that the ends of justice served by ordering the continuances outweigh the best interests of the public and any defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Unless otherwise ordered by the assigned district or magistrate judge, all other criminal court proceedings will proceed as scheduled."
"To the extent criminal proceedings may be conducted via phone or videoconference, conversion of in person proceedings to telephonic or videoconference proceedings will be at the discretion of the assigned district or magistrate judge," the order states.
Also, the order states:
• All naturalization ceremonies are cancelled. If an individual meets the criteria for an expedited judicial oath administration ceremony, the court will make arrangements for naturalization of that individual by a judicial officer.
• United States Marshal Service personnel and deputized contract court security officers will deny building access to individuals who may be infected with COVID-19 or otherwise appear to pose a public health risk. All persons seeking to enter courthouses within the Southern District of Indiana will be required to answer the following questions:
- Are you experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath?
- Have you been in close contact with someone confirmed or who is being evaluated for COVID-19?
- Have you recently visited an area that is subject to quarantine because of COVID-19 infection?
Persons who answer “yes” to any of the above questions will be denied courthouse access. Persons who exhibit symptoms of illness potentially indicating COVID-19 infection will be denied courthouse access.
All federal courthouses in the Southern District of Indiana remain open. Staff in the clerk’s office will be available by telephone, mail will be received and processed, and court services intake counters will remain open to receive filings.
Electronic filings may still be made by registered users through the CM/ECF system. The public is encouraged to continue utilizing court services while following all applicable public health guidelines.