Jury trials are on hold in Graham and Greenlee Counties, as courts move to follow new guidelines for dealing with the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The courts and court clerk offices will stay open, but a recent Arizona Supreme Court administrative order directs courts to avoid in-person proceedings as much as possible, reschedule jury empaneling and limit scheduled hearings to 10 people at a time.
Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael Peterson said jury trials scheduled for April were postponed. He expected there would be no trials for at least 60 days. Criminal cases where the accused is not in jail will also be postponed for 60 days; those in jail will be seen by videoconference.
“To the best of our ability, we will handle those cases as quickly as possible,” Peterson said.
Civil cases, family cases and matters involving juveniles will be handled telephonically as much as possible. People who are ill should not come to the courthouse; payments may be made and forms obtained online.
Peterson said the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program was expected to conduct more appointments by phone and possibly through in-home visits.
“There will need to be a new way of thinking about a lot of things in the next 60 days, but we will try to be as normal as possible in how we handle matters,” said Peterson.
Greenlee County Clerk of the Superior Court and Probate Registrar Madeline Montoya said she is following the rest of the nation's lead and limiting the number of people with whom her staff has contact.
"We’re still operating and allowing the public to come in, but we're taking steps to make sure the number of people due to come in is limited," Montoya said.
The courthouse is going to stick with the new 10-person limit guidelines, Montoya said.
"We're postponing any trials right now, but we're going to continue with court work," Montoya said. "We're just going to have the parties appear telephonically or have them do videoconferencing, and that should help with avoiding a lot of public contact."