Tulsa County Presiding Judge Orders Suspension Of Jury Trials, Other Court Activity Due To COVID-19

Nov 19, 2020

Tulsa County District Court Presiding Judge William LaFortune has ordered the suspension of jury trials and some other court activity due to rising COVID-19 rates.

"Due to an increase in Covid-19 infections in Tulsa County and surrounding areas, the following modifications will be instituted," LaFortune wrote in a Nov. 18 internal memo obtained by Public Radio Tulsa.

The memo lists jury trials and preliminary issue hearings as suspended from Nov. 25 until Jan. 11 of next year.

"Preliminary hearing dockets may continue for the purpose of conducting waivers, dispositions, and other matters that can be accomplished without calling witnesses," the memo reads.

The memo says the court's family division will "eliminate in-person hearings and trials where practicable" beginning Nov. 25, lasting through Jan. 4.

"Beginning immediately, out of custody misdemeanor cases will be continued until April 1, 2021 and thereafter as set by the Judge and clerks. This does not apply to DUI, Domestic Assault, or misdemeanors involving violence or threats of violence," LaFortune writes.

"Bailiffs, as directed by the Court Administrator will monitor the hallways to avoid congestion and enforce social distancing (a more permanent plan will be developed in the upcoming days)," the memo reads. TheĀ Tulsa World reported Wednesday on viral photos of crowded hallways on the first floor of the courthouse and concern from attorneys given the severity of the pandemic.

"Judges are responsible for managing their courtroom and enforcing social distancing (6 feet) and masks on their respective dockets," the memo reads. "Reducing the size of in-person dockets, scheduling dockets at different times of the day, and taking other proactive measures are essential.

"As we continue to balance the needs of those in the court system and the safety of everyone involved, we ask that everyone take responsibility and practice saferty and social distancing," the memo concludes.

Vicki Cox, the court's administrator, confirmed the memo as accurate.