The Arkansas court system, including all appellate, circuit, and district courts, have implemented actions to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
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Courts remain open. However, all in-person proceedings (with some exceptions) have been suspended through April 3. The suspension may be extended.
The suspension of in-person judicial proceedings includes the following exceptions:
-- Proceedings necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants and juveniles, including initial appearances, probable-cause hearings; speedy trial; cases in which victims are under 14 years of age; juvenile probable cause hearings; juvenile detention hearings; and hearings on writs of habeas corpus.
-- Proceedings in which civil or criminal jury trials are already in progress as of March 17.
-- Proceedings pertaining to relief from abuse, including those related to emergency child custody orders; probable cause, emergency child placement, and ICWA in dependency-neglect proceedings.
-- Proceedings related to petitions for temporary restraining orders or other forms of temporary injunctive relief.
-- Proceedings related to adult protective services and emergency mental health orders.
-- Proceedings for emergency guardianship or conservatorship.
-- Proceedings directly related to the COVID-I9 public health emergency.
-- Oral arguments regarding time-sensitive matters.
Judges will be responsible for ensuring that core constitutional functions and rights are protected. For criminal trials, in light of the public health emergency, any delay for speedy-trial purposes during this time will be deemed as a good cause.
The Administrative Judge of each judicial circuit is authorized to determine the manner in which the in-person exceptions are to be implemented.
Civil proceedings conducted in person shall be limited to the attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, a press-pool representative, and other individuals necessary to the proceedings as determined by the judge presiding over the proceedings.
In criminal matters, the judge shall continue to protect the defendant's right to public trial. The judge presiding over the in-person proceedings shall exercise his or her discretion in excusing jurors or other individuals who shall not appear as a result of COVID-19.
All judges and court clerks are encouraged to utilize all available technologies, including facsimile machines, e-mail, teleconferencing, and video conferencing-to continue handling judicial matters.
Any summonses for persons to participate in jury panels are hereby suspended until Friday, May 1.