Oktibbeha County Justice Court following strict COVID-19 safety protocols

STARKVILLE, MISS. (WCBI) – To make sure they continue to safely rule on the criminal and civil matters in their jurisdiction, the Oktibbeha County Justice Court has adopted another set of rules to keep their staff and the citizens they serve safe during the pandemic.

“Pre-COVID era where the court room’s full and we have people waiting outside anyway,” says District 3 Justice Court Judge Charles “Marty” Haug. “That’s just too many people to have in one area.”

The court has done their best to limit the number of people who need to be in the building in-person whether through virtual hearings or setting up times for people to pay minor fines before their scheduled court appearance.

“The last thing we want to do is endanger somebody’s lives by making them come to court just to plead guilty on a speeding ticket or something,” Haug says.

While they’ve done their best to limit the number of people who visit the courthouse, 98 percent of trials are still taking place inside the courtroom.

“If you start running any percentages it [has the potential to be] a supper-spreader and that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Haug says. 

Everyone inside the courthouse is required to wear a mask or risk being in contempt of court. The gallery of people inside the courtroom is now limited to between 12 and 15 people.

“Our court clerk goes through the steps of asking the proper questions and making sure that they also take temperature and then she comes in and seats the people,” says District 2 Justice Court Judge Larnzy Carpenter Jr. “She’s responsible for all the arrangement in the courtroom.”

When it comes to the matter of having to reschedule hearings if a person has tested positive for the virus, Haug says they are working to be as patient as possible.

“I don’t want them to come to court if they think they have COVID and spread it to everybody else,” he says. “I’d rather wait another three to six weeks and we can deal with it then.”

The court knows first hand how dangerous the virus can be after losing one of their bailiffs to the disease during the summer of 2020. 

“Sad to say that we’ve had a couple bailiffs that have been affected with COVID and we’ve even had one that [passed away],” Carpenter says. “So we don’t take this lightly, we take this seriously.”

The court is currently in the process of making further use of Zoom or Google Meet so that they can communicate with attorneys who are outside of the courtroom.

Categories: Featured, Local News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *