A couple of COVID-related court notes:

First, from the federal courts for the Western District of Arkansas:

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The United States Courthouse in Texarkana will be closed effectively immediately and will remain closed through Friday, December 4, reopening on Monday, December 7.

Then from Little Rock:

Little Rock District Court, Second Division (Traffic Court), is canceling in-person trials and hearings that had been set for January and February 2021. Clerks will be contacting defendants and their lawyers to schedule later dates for either virtual or in-person hearings. This is all part of the District Court’s response to COVID-19.

“Based on numbers we were seeing in July and August, we had thought the new year would be a safe time to return to in-person hearings,” Judge Vic Fleming said. “But the state at large is now reporting hundreds of new cases per day, and the numbers keep growing.”

Court officials are asking traffic court litigants with in-person hearings scheduled to email the court at TrafficCourtContact@littrock.gov<mailto:TrafficCourtContact@littrock.gov> to reschedule matters. Or to call (501) 371-4733. Court officials say that email is the preferred mode of communication, because of a limited number of incoming phone lines. Some court employees spend the entirety of each day responding to phone calls, and dozens of recorded messages outnumber the matters handled each day by phone.

The court is convening on Mondays through Thursdays at 8:20 each day and handling cases via the Cisco WebEx teleconferencing platform and via speaker-phone. In recent weeks, the court has been handling about 200 cases per week, resulting in a significant backlog that is being addressed vis telephone and email and that will be further addressed with “walk-in docket days” that had been planned to start in January, but now will not start before March.

“We are monitoring the situation as best we can,” Fleming said. “I anticipate a time, hopefully before spring, that we can open the doors again – literally.”

But schools WILL be open for business. In person.

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