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Pandemic surge forces local court proceedings to go virtual

Montezuma County Combined Courts will hold court virtually because of COVID-19 surge.
Jury trials suspended until further notice

Jury trials in Montezuma and Dolores counties have been suspended, and court appearances must again be held virtually because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in the region, according an order from 22nd Judicial District Chief Judge Doug Walker.

In his Oct. 6 order, Walker cited high frequency of COVID-19 infections in the area reported by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for implementing the court restrictions.

As of Oct. 5, the one-week cumulative incidence for Montezuma County was 420.5 per 100,000 cases, and the one-week average positivity rate was 10.9%.

In Dolores County, the positivity rate was 19.7% as of Oct. 5, and the weekly cumulative incidence rate was 981.8 per 100,000 people.

Walker stated in his order that he “finds that a public health emergency exists in Montezuma and Dolores counties.”

“These numbers are the highest in both categories for both counties that the court can recall since the Covid-19 pandemic began and are cause for great concern,” he stated.

The court order states: “No jury trials will be held until further order. All appearances, hearings, conferences, criminal proceedings, bond hearings and civil proceedings will be conducted by video or telephone using WebEx unless personal appearances are required under Rule 43 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The use of WebEx is mandatory, and in-person court appearances are not allowed, with certain exceptions where the defendant does not consent to appearing by interactive audiovisual devices or interactive audio devices. Any subpoena issued will instruct the witness to appear by WebEx and not in person.”

The court clerk will remain open to the public, but people are encouraged to file all pleadings and documents by mail telephone or use of email.

Court appearances by defendants, lawyers, and the public are to be done via WebEx or by phone.

The probation department waiting room at the Montezuma County Combined Courts building is open. However, no member of the public, including probationers, will be allowed into the secure area of the probation office except with the permission of the Chief Probation Officer.

Health screenings and face coverings continue to be required at the courthouse.

The public is encouraged to regularly check the website for the Colorado Judicial Branch at www.courts.state.co.us and 22nd Judicial District website for the latest information.