Boyle officials rush to notify parties of court cancellations

Published 6:28 pm Friday, March 13, 2020


Boyle County court officials were scrambling Friday afternoon to notify everyone scheduled on Tuesday’s district court docket that court has been cancelled due to a Kentucky Supreme Court order.

The Supreme Court issued the order in order to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus; it ordered most court proceeds from March 16 to April 10 to be canceled.

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The cancellations are being made “to protect the health and safety of court employees, elected officials, and the general public,” according to the order.

All civil trials, hearings and motions have been postponed until a later date.

“With the exception of emergency matters, domestic violence hearings, and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases, all in-person appearances for civil and criminal dockets shall be canceled. Judges are encouraged to use telephonic or video technology for all necessary hearings, including arraignments and mental health hearings.”

Boyle County Court Clerk Cortney Shewmaker said on Friday, “There’s not enough time to notify people who were supposed to be here in district court on Tuesday that their cases were going to be rescheduled.”

People who are scheduled to appear in district court on Tuesday should contact their attorney or the district court clerk’s office at (859) 239-7362.

“Cases will be rescheduled and court notices will be sent to the last known address that we have,” Shewmaker said. “So, it’s important that people contact us to make sure we have their correct address. Tuesday is the most immediate concern.”

Signs will also be posted on the courthouse entrance and the sheriff’s office and court security will be notified of the cancellations and changes, she said.


District court order


District Judge Jeff Dotson issued an order Friday afternoon stating that he will conduct district court jail video arraignments 10:30 a.m. on March 18 and 25, and 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1. Preliminary hearings will be held 1:30 p.m. on three Wednesdays, March 18 and 25 and April 1. Jail video arraignments for the week of March 30 to April 3 will be determined at a later date.

All other dockets scheduled from March 16 to April 10 will be rescheduled.


Circuit court


Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler said, “We’re trying to comply with that order as best we can. Such an order would be difficult to follow under any circumstances. But based on the state of emergency that’s been announced by our governor, it obviously is prudent that we do such things.”

Not only are Peckler and his staff working on rescheduling court proceedings, he is concerned about what may happen if drug rehabilitation facilities have to close as a precaution and send their patients back to jail. Also, he questioned what would happen if jails and prisons are forced to stop admitting new offenders.

“What if they arrest people and they can’t get them in jail because they’re closed or under quarantine? What are we supposed to do then?”

While most court cases will not be heard until sometime later in April, Peckler said, “We’ll be busy trying to figure out what the possible consequences may be for future problems that we have not yet anticipated.”

Public defender Jessica Buck with the Department of Public Advocacy in Danville said beginning Thursday night, her office began developing a plan to get as many pre-trial detainees out of jail as quickly as possible.

Friday morning, she met with county attorneys and judges from Boyle, Mercer and Lincoln counties to figure out how to identify those who could be released from jail, so as not to expose them in case of a COVID-19 outbreak in jail.

“We fully believe our clients who are in custody are in grave danger. They don’t have the luxury of being able to (have) social distance. They are more vulnerable due to overcrowding,” Buck said.

People who are awaiting trial are always presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, she said. She’s always believed that no one should be in jail just because they couldn’t afford bail after being arrested.

“But now it’s a public health crisis,” and they should be released quickly, she said.

On Monday, Buck and other attorneys representing clients through the Department of Public Advocacy will start filing motions on their clients’ behalf requesting they be released on a recognizance or unsecured bond, she said.