Superior Court Jury Trial Suspension
Since March of 2020, Cowlitz County has been challenged in an unprecedented way as the COVID-19 pandemic has raced across our community. Fear, concern, and disruption has 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.
In response to this pandemic, the Superior Court has instituted safety measures at all levels of court operations that meet or exceed recommendations from the Cowlitz County Health Department and the Washington Department of Health. These safety measures include mandated mask wearing, enforced social distancing in court facilities, increased ventilation and targeted cleaning of high touch surfaces to name a few.
Since Superior Court decided to suspend jury trials through the month of August, we have continued to review data from the Cowlitz County Health Department and Department of Health. The COVID virus surge has continued to worsen. On August 13, 2021, the positive case rate was 601.8 COVID positive cases per 100,000 residents and 10 days later is 948.4 positive cases per 100,000 resident. The statewide average is 455.8 per 100,000. Additionally, Health Officials report that our local hospital is at maximum capacity.
As a result, all Superior Court jury trials will temporarily be suspended through the months of August and September. All other dockets and hearings will occur as scheduled, virtually with the exception of Wednesday's out-of-custody plea docket which will remain "in-person" with strict health mitigation protocols enforced.
"As I have said before, I am hopeful that this change is for only a short period of time. The Court is committed to providing critical access to the courts and at the same time doing it in the safest possible manner. Given the continued, dramatic increase in COVID cases, we feel it is safest for litigants, staff, and our community to extend the prior suspension of jury trials and in-person criminal and civil matters. We do not want to increase anyone's risk of exposure to this pandemic. We want to do all we can to make court safe for everyone and we feel this extended suspension promotes access and safety", 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 through subsequent media releases. Our goal is to review the status of jury trials each week with the hope of resuming them as soon as possible. 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