To: All Staff

From: Presiding Judge Mike Burton

Re: Courts to Remain Open the week of March 23, 2020

Date: March 22, 2020

As I trust you all heard yesterday via the RAVE alert, the St. Louis County Circuit Court will remain open the week of March 23, 2020, as ordered by the Supreme Court of Missouri on March 16, 2020, and in compliance with the order of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued March 21, 2020. 

On March 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued an order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other directives, the order suspends – with certain exceptions – in-person proceedings in all state courts through April 3. We have already instituted changes in protocols that allow our employees and our judges to conduct most essential court functions by video or teleconference, drastically reducing the number of individuals coming in and out of the Courthouse to prevent the spread of the virus. 

However, the Supreme Court order also makes it clear that we must continue to meet our constitutional obligations.

 “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. 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.” 

In addition, on March 21, 2020, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued an order designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 within St. Louis County, closing all non-essential businesses. The purpose of the order is to ensure that the maximum number of people remain at home when feasible, while still enabling essential services to continue. 

That order states, in part:

“Essential Government functions” means all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of federal, state, or local government departments, offices, agencies, officials, political subdivisions, entities created by intergovernmental agreement, essential court functions as determined by the Presiding Judge or the Presiding Judge’s designee, and any other government functions necessary to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public;” 

Judge Draper’s March 16th order gave us a long list of the essential court functions that we must provide. We simply cannot close the courthouse doors entirely. Justice counts on us to remain open.

We need you here to provide the essential court functions to keep our community safe. However we do not need all of you here at the same time. 

A number of precautionary actions already are in place to help protect the health of our employees and the public and prevent the spread of the virus. These include: posting signs at the front of the building asking those who may have been exposed to the virus not to enter the building, taking the temperature of all individuals entering the building (including judges); allowing as many employees as possible to work remotely; instituting an A/B work schedule; practicing social distancing while at work; providing sanitation supplies to employees; and adding additional sanitation routines in the building. 

We are very aware of the challenges that employees have when they now suddenly have loved ones at home for whom they provide care.  Therefore we are exploring a number of scenarios to accommodate these needs, including the possibility of establishing nighttime and weekend hours to allow employees to be here to enter and process all the necessary information from court orders. 

Please check with your supervisor to make sure you know which days and times you are to report to work, or if you have any questions or concerns.

While we continue to carry out our essential functions to the public, we will continue to follow the latest recommendations from the County Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Please refer to their websites for updates, as the situation is constantly changing. The CDC website address is: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

The St. Louis County Department website address is  https://www.stlouisco.com/Your-Government/County-Executive/COVID-19. The  St. Louis County COVID-19 Hotline number is 314-615-2660  To receive text alerts when content is changed you can subscribe by texting STLOUISCOALERT to 67283.

Thank you all for your patience and your commitment to serving the public during this challenging time.