Guidelines for Municipal Courts During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
Re: Rights of the Confined
From: Presiding Judge Michael D. Burton
Date: April 14, 2020
- The Missouri Supreme Court has ordered the municipal courts to remain accessible to the public throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency in order to perform their essential functions, including compliance with constitutional and statutory rights of those who are confined.
- Review confined defendants as soon as practicable after arrest
Municipal judges are strongly encouraged to expeditiously review confined defendants’ conditions for release, in a manner that reduces unnecessary person-to-person contact. Prosecutors should not need more than three hours to make such decisions.
- Review of bonds
Municipal judges must presume by Missouri statute that a recognizance bond is appropriate for defendants. Given the nature of most municipal offenses, (minor traffic and municipal ordinance violations), most charges should have recognizance bonds.
- Review of outstanding warrants
Municipal judges should review and consider recalling all outstanding warrants for municipal matters unless there are specified concerns for the safety of a victim, witness or the community.
- Considerations for Release of Defendants
Municipal judges must consider releasing defendants pursuant to state law and Supreme Court rules that require the imposition of the least restrictive condition(s) of release.
When considering the least restrictive conditions, municipal judges must always consider non-monetary conditions and determine if they alone will secure the appearance of the defendant in court. This court discourages municipal judges from issuing monetary bonds for most municipal offenses unless potentially dangerous circumstances warrant otherwise. Some municipal offenses, such as domestic assaults and alcohol-related offenses, may warrant additional conditions of release or continued incarceration in order to protect victims and others in the community.
- Provide law enforcement agencies with written procedures for bond condition review for in-custody defendants
Municipal divisions must develop and provide to their law enforcement agencies a written procedure for the immediate review of bond conditions of defendants taken into custody on a municipal division warrant. Such protocols must be provided to this court immediately.
- Provide and post written procedures for the recall of outstanding warrants and bond reviews for defendants not in-custody
In the event a municipality limits public access to the office or the administrator of the municipal division to less than 30 hours a week, the municipal division shall develop written procedures, posted at a location visible to the public and on the municipal division’s website, if available, explaining how defendants and attorneys may request the recall of outstanding warrants.
In the event the municipal division requires the posting of a monetary bond for a defendant not in custody, the municipal division shall make available, upon request of the defendant or attorney representing the defendant, a municipal judge to conduct the review of the defendant’s bond conditions. Review of bond conditions may be conducted telephonically or via videoconference.
- Review and update Municipal Division Directory
In order to facilitate communication between the St. Louis County Justice Center and municipal divisions of the 21st Judicial Circuit, this court has created a municipal division directory which lists all of the contact information for the municipal division, the municipal division judges and the court administrators and staff. Municipal division judges are hereby ordered to review the municipal division directory and provide updated information to this court.
- Provide Notice to Law Enforcement
All municipal division judges are to forward a copy of the attached Administrative Order to the law enforcement agency in their jurisdiction or to the contracted agency charged with carrying out law enforcement duties for the municipality immediately.
Guidelines for Municipal Courts in St. Louis County
From: Presiding Judge Michael D. Burton
Date: April 13, 2020
- The Missouri Supreme Court has ordered the municipal courts to remain accessible to the public throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Even though day and night court proceedings have been cancelled to prevent the spread of the virus, municipal courts must continue to perform certain essential functions, utilizing social media, websites, email, teleconferencing and videoconferencing.
- These essential functions include:
- Issuing and recalling warrants;
- Setting and reducing bonds;
- Processing court costs, fines and fees; and
- Providing information about pending cases, including new court dates.
- If your municipality decides to physically close its courthouse facilities, you must notify the Supreme Court, the Office of State Courts Administrator, and the Presiding Judge of the 21st Circuit, Judge Michael D. Burton. You will also need to post a notice at your courthouse and notify the media.
- Municipal courts must stay informed of all Administrative Orders issued by the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of Missouri. These orders are available on the St. Louis County Circuit Court’s website, stlcountycourts.com and the Missouri Supreme Court’s website, www.courts.mo.gov.
- Stay in regular touch with your municipal officials and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. Follow Health Department guidelines – such as social distancing -- and abide by directives for reporting cases of Coronavirus in your facilities.