LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - The Arkansas judicial system can begin having hearings at all levels again, as officials continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a three-page order issued Friday by Arkansas Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, the restrictions on certain types of hearings will end with hearings starting again May 18.
“Today, we announce that beginning May 18, 2020, Arkansas courts in all divisions shall resume conducting hearings with certain measures to combat the spread of the disease (COVID-19) to the public, including the employees of the Arkansas judiciary. There is no restriction on the type of case for which hearings shall resume,” the order noted. “Courts shall be operational and the Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts have obtained personal protective equipment to assist the courts and counties in the gradual resumption of in-person proceedings where practical.”
The order noted that hearings shall conducted by video conference, audio conference or in-person proceedings, at the discretion of the presiding judge.
Also, attorneys, witnesses and parties in a case can attend a hearing through video or audio conferences or in-person appearances. Right now, officials are using video conferencing over audio conferencing and in-person hearings, the order noted.
Officials also said in the order that courthouses and courtrooms must comply with Arkansas Department of Health guidelines on COVID-19, limiting gathering to no more than 10 people.
If that opportunity is not available, state officials are asking judges to consider an interesting alternative for conducting hearings.
“This court encourages the use of alternative indoor venues, such as auditoriums, gymnasiums, civic centers or National Guard armories, if the current courtroom cannot accommodate the social-distancing and other public gathering restrictions and guidelines,” Kemp said in the order.