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Area courts make modifications due to COVID-19 virus

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Walla Walla County Courthouse-vertical

Walla Walla County Courthouse

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UPDATE: Columbia County Superior and District court proceedings will continue despite closures of many public facilities due to COVID-19 virus concerns, Prosecutor Dale Slack posted on social media Monday.

“While rules can be suspended, constitutional guarantees of timely justice and public proceedings cannot be altered,” his Facebook message stated. “Cancelling court proceedings or continuing trials without respect for all parties’ rights will most certainly end in reversal of the outcomes of the cases.”

Walla Walla County Superior and District courts also will continue with hearings despite closures in other sectors of the community where there is growing concern about spreading the virus, Court Clerk Kathy Martin announced today.

Judges from each court signed administrative orders after the Washington State Supreme Court granted emergency authority to all courts, allowing them to modify, suspend and adopt their own orders as needed.

As of today, court hearings were taking place and offices were open to the public.

Inmates from the Walla Walla County Jail were brought in twos or threes to one afternoon docket in Walla Walla County Superior Court. Twelve-member jury trials were not being scheduled, but six-member jury trials were taking place.

Inmates with hearings in District Court did so by video, as they normally do.

People not in custody with hearings at either court were urged to attend by themselves instead of bringing several family members or friends.

For the public, those who had business in either court clerk’s office were urged to do so by phone or other means.

Some defendants’ signatures may not be required, such as in District Court orders. District court also was continuing in-person infraction hearings no less than 90 days from the currently scheduled hearing. Those who receive infractions were required to respond.

Also at District Court, no criminal jury or civil bench trials were being called, but were continued to no later than 60 days from their date.

To track likely changes, contact either court to confirm the status of cases or other matters at ubne.ws/countycourt or ubne.ws/districtcourt.

Emily Thornton can be reached at emilythornton@wwub.com or 509-526-8325.

Emily Thornton covers courts and emergency services, as well as other various stories. She has been in the newspaper industry off and on since roughly 1999 and lived primarily on the West Coast, but also Florida and Europe.

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