Courts in West Virginia and Ohio Have Safety Rules in Place
Wherever you live in the Parkersburg, WV, region, the lawyers and staff at Summers & Associates realize how much COVID-19 changes affect us all. The simplest act of going out of our homes today requires much more preparation and caution. With a focus on keeping our clients and the general public safer, we are taking time to review the ways that courts in West Virginia and Ohio are altering how they conduct court business.
Court matters in Ohio and West Virginia remain the same when it comes to the laws themselves. However, COVID-19 public health concerns raised several safety issues and ushered in new regulations and requirements. In general, these public health restrictions affect how clients may access courthouse locations, meet with counsel, and more. Whether you are dealing with a matter or have a court order for federal, state, or local courts in West Virginia or Ohio, each county maintains its own effective COVID-19 response. Also, each state court has health-related mandates for public safety while handling court orders or other appearances.
General COVID-19 Safety Requirements for West Virginia Orders
Effective March 12, 2020, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued its COVID-19 planning document. Effective March 16, 2020, all West Virginia courts received directives to manage court dockets to follow these Supreme Court plans. West Virginia orders must comply with the public safety requirements put in place, which include:
- Allowing for telephone hearings;
- Postponement of non-critical and/or time-sensitive matters;
- Encouraging video conference systems for those incarcerated;
- Reducing the number of matters heard each day.
All these measures were at the early stages of the pandemic. Since then, many court offices adopted general public health guidelines. These pertain to staff and visitors alike, and court visitors may see these on prominent display. A main restriction involves being aware of your personal health and whether you have a fever or any other COVID-19 symptoms. If so, court staff and visitors must not enter the building. Beyond those required to appear at court, if a client has any specific questions about following West Virginia orders or court orders in Ohio jurisdictions, please give us a call.
Social Distancing and Personal Hygiene Guidelines in Effect
Besides general health awareness, anyone who is not in the same household must keep at least six feet of separation from the next person. This would include:
- standing away from court staff when checking into or out of offices;
- maintaining awareness of how many people are in the office, room, hall, or other surroundings;
- handling paperwork;
- the use of “contactless” exchanges of paperwork or payments.
Another encouragement for court employees and visitors alike is to help ensure safety by maintaining proper hand hygiene. Ways to manage this include washing hands and using hand sanitizer often, such as when entering or leaving offices. Also take care to avoid touching many common surfaces, such as door knobs, handles, etc. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, where the COVID virus may infect yourself or others.
Look for Additional Directions or Instructions from Court Personnel
Court offices in both West Virginia and Ohio may have additional precautions or directions posted clearly on the doors or windows of their offices, similar to those shown in these examples below. Visitors and employees must maintain an awareness of separation, hygiene, and more when engaging in necessary business at the courthouse or other offices.
Allow time when entering the building and be sure to check with personnel before reporting to a courtroom or other meeting room. Most public spaces may be either closed or limited during the pandemic. If the space is open, there may be cleaning staff working on a strict schedule to maintain cleanliness. There may be a requirement for visitors to wait at a distance or in another area until meeting spaces are ready.
Additional Screening During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
Court offices may have additional screening protocols in place for safety. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, court security personnel may require visitors to:
- certify they do not have any symptoms,
- scan or otherwise check body temperature,
- or suggest hand washing or direct you to a hand sanitizer station.
Visitor compliance is important to help ensure the safety of everyone who must visit the courthouse for a proceeding. Being aware of local or countywide COVID-19 restrictions during the public health emergency is your best way to keep yourself and your family safer.
The use of personal protective equipment may be a matter of personal choice or necessity, depending on an individual’s health concerns. Beyond wearing a mask or face covering, court visitors may choose to wear gloves to prohibit touching possibly infectious surfaces. Taking time to plan your visit to the courthouse or any other similar location during this widespread public health emergency is time well spent.
Changes During the COVID Public Health Emergency
The law office of Summers & Associates remains active in serving our Parkersburg-area clients in West Virginia and Ohio. Our main advice is to know before you go. If you have any questions or concerns about requirements for your specific court matter, please contact our office, or be sure to check with the local court office prior to making your visit.
Summers & Associates is a law firm serving clients in the region of Parkersburg, West Virginia, for personal injury, criminal, and family law matters. Call our office today at (304) 420-0975, or contact us anytime via live chat on our website.