By Greg Bird
After weeks of being closed to regular public access the McCreary County Courthouse officially re-opened Monday, but there are still social-distancing guidelines to follow as operations begin to resume.
Courthouse security staff, who have been on the forefront of keeping the access of the building open for the public, will continue to be called upon to ensure the safety of citizens and staff during the pandemic.
All visitors to the courthouse will be subjected to a temperature check before being allowed access. They will also be offered face masks if desired, and hand sanitizer will be available.
All offices in the courthouse will be open, and many have installed dividers between staff and citizens to further protect the people working and visiting from exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Judge Executive Jimmie Greene stated most Kentucky Counties are re-opening their courthouses with similar restrictions, only about 20-percent of the counties are requiring mandatory masks for citizens.
With the reopening, most state and county offices will resume normal operations, but there are some changes to what they can and can not provide.
The Circuit Clerk’s office has resumed limited driver’s license services as of June 1, re-issuing driver’s licenses to individuals who meet certain criteria.
Those individuals with a driver’s license, permit or ID card that expired or was lost between March 1-June 30, 2020, who wish to obtain a renewal or reissuance must apply through a remote application process. And those with a driver’s license, permit or ID card that expired or was lost before March 1, 2020, must obtain new credentials, which will be issued through an in-person visit to an Office of Circuit Court Clerk.
Individuals seeking to take driver testing can call 1-606-878-1573 to make an appointment for the test at the Williamsburg office between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Real ID licenses are still only offered in the Frankfort office.
Driver’s license services were suspended March 18 when Gov. Andy Beshear closed in-person government services due to the pandemic and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray issued an official order giving citizens a 90-day extension to maintain the validity of licenses that expired during office closures.
Circuit and District courts resumed in-person operations as well Monday, resuming civil and criminal cases that have, for the most part, been on hold since mid-March.
While criminal and civil dockets will finally resume, they will be limited mostly to remote hearings via phone or video, according to a press release. Grand jury proceedings will also resume in June, though the jurors will meet remotely. Jury trials are slated to begin again in August.
If a judge determines that an in-person court hearing is necessary, just the parties involved will be allowed inside and, even then, only up to 33 percent capacity. Social distancing is also required.
And anyone going to court for any reason must wear a face covering, including employees.
The media and public will have access to the hearing through audio or video.
“Our priority is to implement a limited, phased reopening that will allow greater access to the courts while keeping court personnel and the public safe through social distancing and other precautions,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton said in a press release announcing the openings.
The courts have been mostly shutdown since March 16 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines as of June 1 include: Entrance to court facilities is limited to individuals with a scheduled in-person hearing and those filing emergency protective orders, interpersonal protective orders and emergency custody orders. Members of the public are prohibited from bringing purses or similarly enclosed bags into court facilities, unless items in the bags are medically necessary. Telework will be encouraged for any employee who is able to do so. Staffing will be limited to 50%, unless an exception is granted by the Department of Human Resources.