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COVID-19: Acadiana court hearing cancellations and postponements

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Posted at 2:22 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 17:59:47-04

Many district attorney’s offices have continued, or reset, dates for upcoming court hearings due to the outbreak of the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

On April 6, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an order that further delayed almost all trials, hearings and court appearances in any state court until at least May 4.

On March 16, the Supreme Court of Louisiana issued an order advising district courts on how to proceed following Gov. John Bel Edwards’ declaration of a public health emergency proclamation and President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.

The order halts almost all trials, hearings and court appearances in any state court until March 30. The order applies to both civil and criminal matters. Trials already underway can finish, at the discretion of the presiding court.

On March 23, the issued a new order that adds new restrictions for lower courts, including the following:

  1. Courts must take immediate measures to limit access to courtrooms and other spaces, with absolute minimum physical contact, to practice social distancing and limit court activity to only the essential functions in accordance with the “Stay at Home Order” issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards on March 22.
  2. Courts are further instructed to follow all guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control, President Trump and Governor Edwards, and to further limit access to courtroom and other spaces to the maximum number of people set forth in any future guideline or official proclamation that may be issued.
  3. All essential court functions should be conducted with the use of video and telephone conferencing whenever possible. Any court lacking the technological capabilities to implement this mandate shall notify the Judicial Administrator of the Louisiana Supreme Court so that accommodations can be made.
  4. The essential criminal matters in the court's March 16 order should be conducted via video and/or telephone conferencing with increased frequency to alleviate potential overcrowding of jails, which is a public health emergency for citizens and jail personnel.
  5. The essential civil matters set forth in the court’s March 16 order should be conducted via video and/or telephone conferencing, including but not limited to civil protective orders, child in need of care proceedings, emergency child custody matters, proceedings for children removed from their home by emergency court order, proceedings related to emergency interdiction and mental health orders, temporary restraining orders and injunctions, and matters of public health related to this crisis and other emergency matters necessary to protect the health, safety and liberty of individuals as determined by each court.
  6. All matters that are resolved by agreement of the parties and with the approval of the court that do not involve any appearance at the court may proceed during the pendency of this order. This authority does not extend to any matters suspended by executive action by the governor, including but not limited to evictions.
  7. Courts should work with parish clerks to encourage in-person filings of court pleadings to be replaced with filing by other means, such as U.S. mail, e-filing, email or facsimile. In all criminal, juvenile and civil matters handled on an emergency or expedited basis, a record will be kept under the direction of the acting judge for each action.

KATC has reached out to several district attorney offices in Acadiana to verify what each of them are doing about their pending court hearings.

U.S. FEDERAL COURT - WESTERN DISTRICT

According to an order from the U.S. Federal Court - Western District Chief Judge Maurice Hicks on March 16, their office is continuing operations while working to mitigate risks to individual employees and the general public.

Public access to the Louisiana Western District Clerk of Court Offices in the Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport Divisions is suspended.

Any court filings or correspondence may be time-stamped and placed in the drop box located in each division.

Any and all payments made to the Clerk, U. S. District Court for the payment of fines, fees, criminal debt or restitution must be made online via www.pay.gov or paid via money order or check and mailed to any divisional office.

Address information and telephone numbers to assist the public are on www.lawd.uscourts.gov. All divisional offices are staffed and will be processing filings and payments.

The order states:

  1. All U.S. Federal Courthouses in Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport will remain open for business, subject to certain limitations.
  2. All civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on any date from now through May 1 are postponed to a date to be reset by each presiding judge. All other hearings, conferences and/or proceedings are subject to the discretion of the individual presiding judge.
  3. These continuances are exempt from the Speedy Trial Act in the interest of public health.
  4. Grand jury matters will proceed pending further order of the court.
  5. Judges may continue to hold in-person hearings, sentencing proceedings and conferences, but are encouraged to do so by telephone or video.
  6. Magistrate judges will continue to preside over criminal matters such as initial appearances, arraignments, detention hearings and the issuance of warrants, but are encouraged to use video conferencing when feasible.
  7. Events such as continuing legal education courses, public tours, administration of oaths to attorneys and naturalization ceremonies scheduled from March 16 - May 1 are canceled and will be rescheduled when appropriate.
  8. All U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services offices will remain open for business.
  9. Many employees will be teleworking, but will be accessible by phone.
  10. The order will remain in effect through May 1 unless extended.

THIRD CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEAL

On March 25, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles announced that its facility is closed, but will continue the business of the court and conduct most court operations remotely. Motions and other court documents can still be filed through email, fax, U.S. mail or in-person filing with limited access. The Third Circuit is also making records that are three volumes or less available upon request through email. All questions can be directed to the Clerk of Court, Renee Simien at 337-433-9403 or coc@la3circuit.org.

The court also ordered that all oral arguments currently scheduled through April 30 and May 31 have to be submitted through briefs to the court.

15TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT - ACADIA, LAFAYETTE & VERMILION PARISHES

On March 19, the 15th JDC issued a supplemental order stating that all trials and hearings set for any date between March 30 - April 9 are postponed and will be rescheduled by order of each respective judge. Exceptions to this order include:

  • All parish civil protective orders
  • emergency child custody matters
  • proceedings for children removed from their home by emergency court order
  • emergency commitment hearings

The order also describes special precautions taken by the court to separate people and limit numbers to conduct court matters requiring expedited consideration.

Criminal initial appearances (72 hour hearings) for adults and juveniles, arraignments for incarcerated individuals and bond hearings will continue as usual. Adult proceedings will be conducted with the use of video appearances.

Domestic hearing officer conferences will be conducted over the phone when possible or will be reset.

All jurors summoned for service from March 30 - April 9 will be reset for a future jury week. They are advised to call the number on their jury summons for directions.

All attorneys, parties and witnesses with civil matters set during this time period will receive a new notification from the court about the reset date of their case.

According to an order on March 17 from Judge Marilyn Castle, the courthouses in Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes are open to the public from 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

However, persons with the following conditions are asked not to enter the courthouses:

  1. Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by hospital or health agency
  2. Persons who have been diagnosed with or have had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  3. Persons who have an unexplained cough that has lasted more than 5 days
  4. Persons who are experiencing recent shortness of breath
  5. Persons who have a fever (body temperature of 100 degrees or more)

Anyone with these conditions who have been ordered to appear in court must alert the presiding judge who will provide further instructions.

The order will remain in effect through March 27 or until further notice from the court.

LAFAYETTE PARISH
On March 18, Judge Marilyn Castle has said that anyone set to appear in court in Lafayette Parish through March 27 can utilize the driver through service at Lafayette Parish Courthouse starting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 18 to be served with a new court date. Everyone is encouraged to come during the morning hours on March 19 even if your court date is not until next week.

Anyone set to appear in criminal or traffic court in Lafayette Parish between March 30 - April 9 are to utilize the drive through system at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse to be served with a new court date starting March 20.

LAFAYETTE CITY COURT

On April 5, the Lafayette City Court judges announced that all court sessions scheduled to be heard before May 15 have been cancelled and will be rescheduled by the court. The Lafayette City Court building remains closed to the public, but limited staff are still working to handle court matters by mail or fax. Phone messages are also being returned as soon as possible.

The City Court building is scheduled to be reopened to the public on May 4. The court says it plans to resume limited court sessions on May 18. The court says it expects to return to normal court schedule on Monday, June 15.

For more details, call 337-291-8720 or visit www.CityCourtLafayetteLa.org.

CARENCRO CITY COURT
On April 1, the Carencro City Court announced that any and all arraignments and appearances set for March 19 and April 16 are rescheduled for May 14 unless otherwise advised by the court. All court dates after May 14 remain intact.

On April 1, the Carencro City Court announced that any and all trials previously set in March 26 and April 30 are now rescheduled for May 7. All people summoned to appear on March 26 and April 30 must now appear on May 7 unless otherwise advised by the court. All trial dates after May 7 remain intact.

VERMILION PARISH
The interdiction matter in Vermilion Parish on March 30 before Judge Edward Broussard will go forward as scheduled.
On April 7, the child in need of care cases in Vermilion Parish will go forward as scheduled.

Anyone set for criminal court during the week of March 30 is to appear on that date at the temporary outdoor office on the east porch of the courthouse facing Charity Street to be served with a new court date.

KAPLAN CITY COURT
According to an April 3 court order from Judge Maria Greene, the Kaplan City Courthouse and Kaplan City Court Clerk's Office is now closed to the public until 8:30 a.m. on April 30. They are still accessible by phone at 337-643-6611 or email at KaplanCityCourt@Kalantel.net.

According to a court order from Judge Stanton Hardee on March 23, the Kaplan City Courthouse at 907 N. Guidry Ave., in Kaplan will be closed Monday, March 23, through Monday, April 13 unless further extended by the court. The order states that all criminal 72-hour hearings for incarcerated individuals will continue to be held by phone only on Mondays & Thursdays with the judge and clerk on duty that day.

BROUSSARD MAGISTRATE COURT

On April 8, the Broussard Police Department announced that Broussard Magsitrate Court that was scheduled for April 30, at 5:30 p.m., has been rescheduled for June 25, at 5:30 pm. Anyone scheduled for the April 30 court date must contact BPD immediately at Department at 337-837-6259 or email at BPDCLERKS@broussardpolice.com to be issued a new court date.

On March 24, Broussard Police announced that Broussard Magistrate Court that was scheduled for Thursday, March 26, has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 25, at 2 p.m. Those scheduled for the March 26 court date must contact the Broussard Police Department immediately to be issued a new court date at at 337-837-6259 or email at BPDCLERKS@broussardpolice.com to arrange reservice ASAP. The hours of operation are Monday - Friday from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

16TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT - IBERIA, ST. MARTIN & ST. MARY PARISHES

According to an April 6 order from Judge Lewis Pitman, his March 16 order has now been extended to April 30 at 5 p.m.

According to a March 30 notice from Judge Lewis Pitman, writs of habeas corpus must be set and heard as mandated by the state constitution. This order will remain in effect until April 10.

According to a March 19 order from Judge Lewis Pitman, incarcerated defendants may appear for guilty pleas via audio-visual transmission if they meet legal requirements that satisfy the court.

According to a notice on March 17 from 16th District Attorney Bo Duhe, the district attorney’s office will be closed to the public until further notice.

However, the office will remain open during normal business hours to conduct business.

All face-to-face meetings are canceled until at least April 13 or until the state of emergency ends.

KATC reached out to Duhe who said he is following the supreme court’s order in resetting all criminal and civil jury trials scheduled through March 27.

Duhe said court proceedings that are constitutionally-mandated such as arraignments, bond reductions and 72 hour hearings will go on as planned via telephone and video conferencing when and where possible.

All other court appearances as well as grand jury proceedings will be reset to a later date.

All face-to-face meetings concerning probation and child custody have been canceled, but the office is communicating by telephone to individuals about future appointments.

13TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT - EVANGELINE PARISH

According to an April 6 announcement from the Evangeline Parish District Attorney’s Office, all Revocation Hearings as well as all Compulsory School Attendance Hearings scheduled for Wednesday, April 8 have been canceled. Also, all Non-Support Cases scheduled for Tuesday, April 14 are canceled. Individuals required to be in court on those days will be notified of their rescheduled court appearances at a later date.

According to a notice from the Evangeline Parish District Attorney’s Office, court proceedings in the district will following the supreme court’s order and reset most proceedings.

The revocation docket set for March 18 has been canceled until further notice.

The compulsory school attendance docket for March 18 has also been canceled until further notice.

The criminal docket scheduled for March 19, will proceed as follows:

  • All individuals scheduled for arraignment on March 19, must appear.
  • All individuals scheduled to appear for Pre-Trial on March 19 and Trial on March 30, are excused on March 19, but must appear on March 30.

Children In Need of Care (CINC) cases will be heard on March 18 at 1 p.m.

Those who have any questions or concerns are asked to please contact Anne Aucoin, Connie Soileau, Julhelene Jackson or Deidra Godfrey at 337-363-3438.

On March 24, Judge Chuck West announced that Traffic Court scheduled for Thursday, March 26, and Criminal Court scheduled for Monday, March 30, have been cancelled. Individuals required to be in Court on those days will be notified of their rescheduled court appearances at a later date.

31ST DISTRICT - JEFFERSON DAVIS PARISH

According to Jeff Davis Parish District Attorney Michael Cassidy, the jury term scheduled for March 23, has been canceled. Prospective jurors, witnesses, and defendants do not need to appear in court that week.

Next week, they currently have criminal court scheduled for March 16. However, all matters that are not time sensitive are being canceled and will be rescheduled to a later date.

They plan to handle matters involving incarcerated individuals by video conferencing, but all other matters will be reset to another date.

Notice will be sent to each individual, and new subpoenas will be issued for witnesses.

Judge Steve Gunnell is also taking the same position on civil matters out of concern for the well being of parish citizens. This would include all child support enforcement cases set for March 19.

Attorneys were informed on March 13 of the situation so any client having a question should contact their respective attorney.

As of March 13, the district attorney’s office had planned to re-institute and maintain its regular court schedule beginning March 30.

However, Cassidy told KATC that since then, the judge has indicated that he will push everything back to April 13, and review the situation before then to determine if further action is necessary.

Anyone with questions can call the Jeff Davis Parish District Attorney’s Office at 337-824-1893.

27TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT - ST. LANDRY PARISH

According to St. Landry Parish District Attorney Charles Cravins, his district is also following the supreme court's order and the only other change is to felony pre-trial hearings.

Criminal rules hearings set for March 20 and March 27 will proceed as scheduled.

The pre-trial hearings set for March 25 have been canceled. All other settings for the May felony docket remain unchanged.

All defendants are to report for docket soundings on May 5-6 and May 8, and jury selection on May 12-13.

Cravins said that he is asking prosecutors to conduct pre-trials by phone as much as possible. Defendants are asked to make contact by telephone concerning their court appearances.

Civil court dates through March 30 are being canceled and rescheduled in all divisions.

All in-court specialty court hearings including drug court and family preservation court are suspended until April 6.

Judges are conducting as many of their proceedings through video conferencing as they can to limit the number of people in the courtroom.

In the St. Landry Parish Courthouse's Annex, which is a courtroom already separated by a glass wall, judges are conducting arraignments with a microphone system on either side to avoid contact. Each defendant will be presented before the judge in very limited numbers.

The 72-hour hearings with defendants who are still in jail will continue to be conducted via video conference.

However, arraignments can be waived by a defendant and Cravins said that he is encouraging defense attorneys to contact their clients to inform them of their right to waive arraignments.

On March 24, Cravins announced that the St. Landry Parish District Attorney's office is now closed to the general public.

District Attorney Charles Cravins says he closed the office to protect the health and safety of the public and staff. The DA's office will continue to conduct business by telephone.

Specific numbers have been set up to answer questions:

Criminal cases, 337-948-0551

Traffic Citations, 337-948-0531

Child Support, 337-942-5719

Probation Information, 337-948-3041

District Attorney Charles Cravins would like to remind everyone that deadlines are still in effect.

14TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT - CALCASIEU PARISH

On March 16, District Attorney John DeRosier announced that they are postponing all criminal jury trials scheduled to commence through March 27, 2020. All parties will receive written notice of their new court appearance at the address provided to the Court.

In addition:

  • All criminal initial appearances for adults and juveniles, arraignments for incarcerated individuals and all bond hearings will continue as scheduled and will be conducted with the use of telephone or video conferencing.
  • Until further notice, the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office will remain open and staffed during normal business hours of 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
  • Walk-ins will be discouraged during this time in order to do our part to lower the spread of the coronavirus. We do encourage all individuals to phone in for assistance.
  • All face-to-face contact with the public will now be discontinued to the extent possible. We will continue to accept phone calls for all your questions and concerns for such matters as court dates, payments of tickets, appointments, etc.
  • As a reminder, the Pre-Trial Diversion and Misdemeanor Probation divisions have postponed all appointments for 30 days. All individuals will receive a letter with their next appointment date. You may call our main line at 337-437-3400 for any questions, however, those divisions will remain closed until April 1.

COURT PROCEEDINGS:

  • All criminal court proceedings, ADULT AND JUVENILE, are cancelled EXCEPT for incarcerated individuals. This means that Court will be limited to video conferencing of incarcerated individuals only. This will be for 72 hour court, probation violations, bond hearings and arraignments.
  • Juvenile Traffic Court will be postponed as well. The court dates on the tickets will be rescheduled.

On March 18, DeRosier announced that in the interest of public health and safety, the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office will be closed. The office will staff essential personnel only. For the time being, the office will maintain essential personnel needed for the limited current court schedule and emergencies only. Personnel will continue to take phone calls, however, the office will be closed to normal business matters. The closure will be re-evaluated on a daily basis as all local, state and federal briefings distribute guidelines for the public.

All communications to the public will be posted at www.calcasieuda.org.

On March 24, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office announced that certain offices are closed to the public. They are staffed and ready to serve the public, but currently offer limited services.

- CPSO Tax Office
For tax or citation payment questions please call (337) 491-3680.
You can still pay your taxes or citations by going online at www.cpso.com [cpso.com] or mailing a check to: Calcasieu Parish Tax Office, 1011 Lakeshore Drive, Suite 100, Lake Charles, LA 70601

- CPSO Human Resources Department
For assistance please call (337) 491-4531

- CPSO Accounting Department
For bond refund questions please call (337) 494-4513 or (337) 602-6856

- All CPSO Law Enforcement Centers. If you are needing assistance from an LEC, please call prior to your arrival.
Bell City / Hayes LEC: (337) 491-7939
Carlyss LEC: (337) 491-3810
Central LEC: (337) 491-3626
DeQuincy LEC: (337) 494-4590
Iowa LEC: (337) 491-3629
Moss Bluff LEC: (337) 491-3627
South Lake Charles LEC: (337) 431-1331
Sulphur LEC: (337) 491-3625
Starks LEC: (337) 491-6659
Vinton LEC: (337) 494-4568