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COVID-19 and Washington Courts Update

Posted Friday, March 13, 2020 by Andrew Charles Huff

With the COVID-19 scare in full force and effect in Washington state, those with upcoming court hearings are wondering whether they will move forward as scheduled. For the most part, courts have taken the following action:

  1. Contested Hearings: Most all courts will re-schedule any Contested Hearings currently set for March and April to new dates. There are some exceptions for those who have filed a written response and not planning to appear in court.

  2. Criminal Hearings: Many courts are re-scheduling “non-mandatory” hearings, such as Review Hearings. Again, there are exceptions such as for those in custody.Another exception is for those charged with “Driving Under the Influence” or DUI cases. Most courts will move forward on DUI cases due in part to some mandatory requirements, especially those with a prior DUI on their records. Please remember that once you are arrested for a DUI, you have a very limited amount of time to request an administrative hearing with DOL, which is separate from your criminal charge in the courts.

  3. Jury Duty: the King County Court system has taken the extraordinary measure of altering its jury duty requirements. This week the court announced that it is now temporarily permitting prospective jurors to be excused from jury duty if they have one or more specific health related issues. These health issues range from heart disease to a weakened immune system, and includes diabetes, lung disease and even pregnancy. Regardless of health, those over 60 years of age are excused from jury duty and don’t have to appear for their civic duty if they don’t want to … and certainly if they themselves have been sick or have recently come into contact with someone who has been sick. The court, in an abundance of caution, has stepped up its cleaning routine in-and-around the courthouse, including the rooms where prospective jurors congregate, check-in (or otherwise assemble) for jury duty. That said, the court has chosen to permit for certain people to avoid jury duty altogether due to COVID-19 concerns. These changes in jury duty obligation are temporary and will return to normal at some date in the future, but for now, the right to a ‘jury of our peers’ has been somewhat altered.

Updated information on the status of court hearings and the entire court system will appear here as we move through the following days ahead.

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