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For up-to-date information about the Coronavirus in the Amarillo area, please visit www.amarillopublichealth.org.

 

COVID-19

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COVID-19 Operating Plan for the City of Amarillo Municipal Court Judiciary

Recognizing the need to ensure the health and safety of litigants, attorneys, visitors, court staff, judges, and other individuals entering the buildings housing the courts, the municipal court of the City of Amarillo will implement the following protective measures:

General

  1. All judges will comply with the Emergency Orders issued by the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals, including conducting in-person proceedings according to the guidance issued by the Office of Court Administration regarding social distancing, maximum group size, and other restrictions and precautions.
  2. All judges will use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely.
  3. The presiding judge of the municipal court will maintain regular communication with the local health authority and mayor and adjust this operating plan as necessary with conditions in the city.
  4. Judges will begin setting non-essential in-person proceedings no sooner than July 1, 2020

Judge and Court Staff Health

  1. Judges and court staff monitoring requirements: Follow all minimum standard protocols recommended in the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas Checklists and AHD Public Health Department.
  2. Judges or court staff who feel feverish or have measured temperatures equal to or greater than 99.6ºF, or with new or worsening signs or symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, diarrhea, or having known close contact with a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19 will not be permitted to enter the building and should seek medical advice.
  3. Court Bailiffs and Courtroom Clerks will be required to wear face coverings while court is in session.Bailiffs and court staff will be required to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and practice appropriate hygiene recommendations when not in court chambers.
  4. Protective Measures: Masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer will be provided to all staff.

Scheduling

  1. The following court schedules are established to reduce occupancy in the court building:

Beginning June 1, 2020, the court will offer six court sessions daily:  Monday through Friday.  Three daily sessions will be virtual and three will be in-person.  The in-person court sessions will allow Defendants who may not have the ability to participate in a virtual hearing to access the court.  Beginning July 1, 2020, in-person hearings will be scheduled for Defendants who do not have access to Zoom, the video conferencing platform utilized by this court, Defendants whose identities cannot be confirmed, and Defendants charged with committing criminal (non-traffic) offenses.   The  court will summons no more than two Defendants per 15 minute increment per courtroom, and social distancing will be enforced during the hearing.  Additionally, summons will include instruction on how to access the preferred videoconferencing option to see the judge.

Vulnerable Populations

  1. Individuals who are over age 65 and individuals with serious underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune systems are compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer or other conditions requiring such therapy are considered to be vulnerable populations.
  2. The Court will include information on orders setting hearings, dockets notices, the court’s website and in other communications notifying individuals who are in vulnerable populations of the ability to contact the court to identify themselves as a vulnerable individual and receive accommodations. A notice with this information will be posted on the courts’ websites and in conspicuous locations around the court building.
  3. Vulnerable populations who are scheduled for court will be accommodated. The court will schedule no more than two litigants per 15 minute increment per courtroom and social distancing will be enforced during the hearing.

Social Distancing

  1. All persons not from the same household who are permitted in the court building will be required to maintain an adequate social distance of at least 6 feet.Signs and floor markings have been posted indicating
  2. Each restroom has been evaluated to determine the appropriate capacity to ensure social distancing and the maximum capacity has been posted on each restroom door.
  3. Public common areas are closed to the public.

     

    Gallery

  4. The maximum number of persons permitted in the gallery of each courtroom has been determined and posted. The maximum capacity of the courtroom will be monitored and enforced by court staff.
  5. The gallery of the courtroom has been marked to identify appropriate social distancing in the seating. Seating is limited to every other row.

    Well

  6. In each courtroom, the counsel tables, witness stand, judge’s bench, and clerk, court reporter, and bailiff seating have been arranged in such a way so that there is social distancing of at least 6 feet between each space.

Hygiene

  1. Hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed at the entrances to the building, outside of elevators on each floor, outside of each courtroom, and outside of bathrooms.
  2. Tissues have been placed near the door of the courtroom, at counsel tables, at the witness stand, on the judges’ benches, and in the hallways.
  3. The Amarillo Public Health Department’s poster “Amarillo Prepared: Coronavirus Prevention Tips” is displayed in multiple locations in the court building and on the court’s website.

Screening

  1. When individuals attempt to enter the court building, a court bailiff or other trained city employee will ask the individuals if they are feeling feverish; have a cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing; or have been in close contact with a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19. Individuals who indicate “yes” to any of these questions will be refused admittance to the court building and will be rescheduled for hearing at a later date.
  2. When an individual attempts to enter the court building, a court bailiff or other trained city employee will use a no-contact, infrared thermometer to determine the temperature of the individual. Individuals whose temperature equals or exceeds 100.0ºF will be refused admittance to the court building and will be rescheduled for hearing at a later date.
  3. The court will continue to see incarcerated individuals via videoconferencing Monday through Saturday.
  4. Staff who are screening individuals entering the court building will be provided personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes.

Face Coverings

  1. All individuals entering the court building will be encouraged to wear face coverings at all times.
  2. Individuals will be encouraged to bring cloth face coverings with them, but if the individual does not have a cloth face covering, a disposable face mask may be provided if requested.
  3. Individuals who will be required to be in the court building for over 1 hour will be provided disposable masks and required to wear them while in the court building if the supply is available.

Cleaning

  1. Court building cleaning staff will clean the common areas of the court building so that common spaces are cleaned at least every 24 hours, Monday through Friday.
  2. Court building cleaning staff will clean the courtrooms at the end of each day the courtroom is used.
  3. Court staff will clean the digital signature pen pad and all common surfaces in the courtroom after each court session.
  4. Court building cleaning staff have been provided cleaning supplies shown to be effective with this Coronavirus.
  5. Court building cleaning staff have been trained on proper cleaning techniques and provided appropriate personal protective equipment.

I have attempted to confer with all judges of courts with courtrooms in the court building regarding this Operating Plan. In developing the plan, I consulted with the local health authority and mayor, documentation of which is attached to this plan. I will ensure that the judges of courts with courtrooms in the court building covered by this Operating Plan conduct proceedings consistent with the plan.

Dated:  5/20/20

Laura Hamilton
Presiding Judge
City of Amarillo
Municipal Court of Record