Madison County judges weigh out options as COVID-19 cases soar

Coronavirus

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in many day-to-day operations, including access to courthouses, court hearings, and public trials.

Madison County Presiding Judge Ruth Ann Hall said court officials have made do.

“We have the Plexiglas, we require masks to be worn,” she said. “We have a thermal scanner that is located at the front doors of the courthouse that as you walk through it takes your temperature.”

Currently, there are restrictions for hearings and trials in the Madison County Courthouse. Judge Hall said the courts have asked for feedback from all of the jurors who have been a part of recent trials. She said so far everyone has felt confident the courthouse’s protocols kept them safe during extended periods in courtrooms.

But if COVID-19 case numbers continue to soar in the county, the courts may have to take a few steps back.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Madison County is a very high COVID-19 risk area.

“We can’t let our guard down,” Hall said. “As everyone knows our numbers continue to rise we are constantly re-evaluating everything that we are doing.”

The Alabama Supreme Court made the decision to halt in-person hearings and jury trials in March Judge Hall said as of recent, no new directives have come down. But she explained presiding judges have some deciding power in changes.

“Basically when we reopened the courts, to the public and to resume jury trials and things of that nature it was left up to the presiding judge to make that determination, and then to notify the Alabama Supreme Court of the decision that was made,” she said.

Hall said she’s in contact with the judges in the courthouse and they actively monitor developments with the virus in Madison County.

In the meantime, she said even if change is on the horizon one thing will remain the same.

“The courts never close, we have not closed through any of this. We have been working and we have the capability of working not only in our offices but also from home,” Hall said. “We will continue to do that regardless of what the numbers are as far as COVID-19 positive cases here in Madison County.”

Update: Judge Hall informed News 19 she will be issuing an order in the near future.

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