Courts are now on emergency operations orders, though that does not mean a total shutdown of the 13th district court with offices in El Dorado, Howard and Eureka.

The Kansas Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 2020-PR-016 directing all district and appellate courts to cease all but “emergency operations” until further order.

“This is an extraordinary measure to match the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “We have a duty to protect the people who come into our courthouses and courtrooms, as well as our employees and judges. This action allows courts to fulfill core functions while reducing in-person contact.”

The District Court Clerk’s office in El Dorado, Howard, and Eureka will be closed to the public. However, limited staff will be available to answer telephone calls, process payments that may be received by mail or other means, and accept electronic filings that may be filed in cases. Staff will not be available for face-to-face contact with the public.

District court will conveine for determining probable cause for persons arrested without a warrant; first appearances; bond hearings; warrants for adults and juveniles; juvenile detention hearings; care and treatment emergency orders; protection from abuse and protection from stalking temporary orders; child in need of care hearings and orders; considering petitions to waive notice for abortions by minors; commitment of sexually violent predators; and isolation and quarantine hearings and orders.

The only exception is jury trials that are currently under way. They may proceed to conclusion, but no other criminal or civil jury trials will be scheduled until further order.

Emergency operations are outlined in the Administrative Order, and generally include: Referenced in the Administrative Order is 2020 House Substitute for Senate Bill 102. On its publication, the court’s Administrative Order will have the effect of suspending until further order all statutes of limitations and statutory time standards or deadlines that apply to conducting or processing judicial proceedings.

During the effective dates of the order, no action will be dismissed for lack of prosecution.

Anyone who has business with a court are urged to try completing that business online, by phone, or by mail. If that’s not possible, the person can call the court for direction. A limited number of staff will be available to answer questions.

Chief judges of district courts are charged with identifying essential personnel — both judges and employees — needed to fulfill emergency operations.

The Administrative Order also applies to appellate courts, including the Supreme Court. Emergency operations for the appellate courts include:

Appeals, motions, or original actions arising from the emergency operations of the district court;

Any other appeal, motion, or original action requiring expeditious resolution.

“It is through our collective action that we will slow COVID-19’s spread,” Luckert said. “The courts will continue to serve the people of Kansas, but in a way that protects all of us.”

At this point it is anticipated that restricted court operations will be in place until Friday, April 3, 2020, though the exact length of the emergency period has not yet been determined. Therefore, it may be modified or extended as circumstances change.