Over the past months, residents of Cowlitz County have been challenged in an unprecedented way as the COVID-19 pandemic races across our community and world. Fear and concern have touched us all. The Courts have been no exception to this struggle as we grapple with the constitutional mandate of providing access to the courts and at the same time making sure court visitors and staff are as safe as they can be in our facilities.
The Superior Court has instituted safety measures at all levels that meet or exceed recommendations from the Cowlitz County Health Department and the Washington Department of Health. The mandates include mask wearing, enforced social distancing in court facilities, increased ventilation, and targeted cleaning of high-touch surfaces to name a few.
Over the past several weeks, the COVID pandemic has surged within our communities. Prior to November, COVID activity in our community was anywhere from 26-75 per 100,000 population or a moderate level of COVID activity. As of November 10, the average per 100,000 is now 207 or a HIGH level of COVID activity over a 14 day period (10/28-11/10). This exponential growth is cause for concern, which has forced us to re-evaluate current court operations.
Effective November 30th, 2020, the Cowlitz County Superior Court will suspend all jury trials. The suspension of jury trials will last at least until December 31st, 2020.
All out-of-custody, in-person criminal matters will be suspended effective November 30th, 2020 until at least December 31st, 2020. Out-of-custody defendants are expected to attend currently scheduled hearings via Zoom instead of making a personal appearance.
For other emergency changes, please refer to EMERGENCY ORDER No.4-A (Modification #3) LINK.
"The Court has committed to providing critical access to the courts and at the same time doing it in the safest possible manner. Given the dramatic increase in COVID cases, we feel it is safest for litigants, staff, and our community to put a temporary pause on criminal trials and out-of-custody, in-person criminal matters. We want to do all we can to make court safe for everyone and we feel this temporary pause allows us to achieve the desired outcome", said Judge Gary Bashor, Presiding Superior Court Judge.
As we continue to monitor the COVID pandemic in our community, we will update our community concerning court operations. All other court operations will continue in their present form.
For more information about the Cowlitz County Superior Court, please visit our website at https://cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us/
For Additional Information Contact:
Chadwick M. Connors