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Missouri Supreme Court suspends in-person proceedings in appellate, circuit courts over coronavirus


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In-person proceedings in all appellate and circuit courts in Missouri have been suspended until April due to coronavirus, the state Supreme Court ordered. 

This includes all associate, family, juvenile, municipal, and probate divisions, the court said. The suspension is March 17 through April 17 — after the Missouri Supreme Court extended the order Wednesday. 

“Despite the suspension of in-person court proceedings, Missouri courts still must continue to carry out the core, constitutional functions of the Missouri judiciary as prescribed by law and continue to uphold the constitutional rights of litigants seeking redress in any Missouri court,” the order said. “Each courthouse should work with local law enforcement and county agencies to ensure that, to the extent possible, courthouses remain accessible to carry out essential constitutional functions and time-sensitive proceedings.” 

More than 200 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus, and five people have died. 

Gov. Mike Parson has declared a state of emergency; President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency as the global pandemic spreads. 

Among the exceptions to the Missouri Supreme Court’s order are proceedings necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants and juveniles, related to emergency child custody or mental health orders, directly related to COVID-19. 

It is up to the presiding judge of the circuit courts and the chief judges of appellate courts to determine how in-person exceptions are to be handled. Those cases will be limited to attorneys, security officials, parties, witnesses, and other pertinent individuals, the order stipulated. 

Presiding judges also have the ability to excuse jurors and other people who might be at risk. 

The order does not impact a court’s ability to consider or rule in cases that do not require in-person proceedings or affect required filing deadlines through the e-filing system. Unless a situation arises, courthouses are not to be closed. 

The Missouri Supreme Court has made changes to how it will proceed with cases docketed in April as well. In addition, it has canceled tours and other nonessential businesses. 

“We encourage local governments and health agencies to provide the same guidance. To protect our elderly citizens and those with underlying medical conditions, we would ask them to avoid public gatherings as much as possible,” Parson said. 

The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” while the disease is called “coronavirus disease 2019,” or “COVID-19.” It can cause severe respiratory illnesses with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned.

There have been more than 54,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and 737 deaths, according to the CDC

This story has been updated. It was originally published on March 16, 2020.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.