Taking a cue from Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Supreme Court today issued an order that encourages a gradual return to more normal court proceedings, beginning May 18.
And here’s a key part:
Today, we announce that beginning May 18, 2020, Arkansas courts in all divisions shal1 resume conducting hearings with certain measures to combat the spread of the disease to the public,including the employees of theArkansas judiciary. There is no restriction on the type of case for which hearings shail resume. 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. we hereby order that hearings shall be conducted by video conference; audio conference; or in-person proceedings, at the discretion of the presiding judge.
Hearings may be conducted by having the parties, attorneys, and/or witnesses attend, using any combination of video or audio conferences and in-person appearances. Any party to a hearing may object to the type of hearing announced, and that objection shal1 be ruled upon by the presiding judge. Presently, video conferencing is preferred over audio conferencing and in-person hearings.
The Administrative Office of the Courts will be monitoring each judge’s use of video conferencing to conduct hearings. The Supreme Court intends to issue a report as soon as next week detailing the use of video conferenced hearings by judges throughout the state.
Further, courthouses and courtrooms shall continue to comply with guidelines announced by the Arkansas Department of Health regarding public gatherings currently limited to gatherings ofno more than ten people.
This court encourages the use of alternative indoor venues, such as auditoriums, gymnasiums, civic centers, or National Guard armories, if the current courtroom cannot accofiInodate the social-distancing and other public-gathering restrictions and guidelines.