MUNICIPAL COURT CORONA VIRUS SUBCOMMITTEE FAQs
- When can municipal courts re-open for in-person court sessions?
The 21st Judicial Circuit will re-open as a circuit. Currently, St. Louis County is in Phase 1. Municipal courts are not allowed to open for in-person court sessions until the Presiding Judge issues an Order that moves St. Louis County Circuit Court to Phase 3, regardless of whether the municipality has all health and safety procedures in place.
- Once the 21st Judicial Circuit permits the resumption of in-person court sessions, do municipal courts need to wait to resume in-person court sessions until all municipal courts are found to be able to resume?
No. Once the 21st Judicial Circuit moves into Phase 3, any municipal court may proceed with in-person sessions, assuming that the 21st Judicial Circuit has approved their COOP. (see #3, 4 below).
- How will municipal courts know when to re-open for in-person court sessions?
The Presiding Judge posts an announcement every week on the St. Louis County Circuit Court webpage at https://wp.stlcountycourts.com/. Emails will also be sent to all municipal court judges and court administrators informing them that they have been approved. If a municipality is not approved, they will be notified of the steps that they need to take to gain approval.
- Are there any requirements that municipal courts must comply with prior to resuming in-person court sessions?
A COOP must be filed with the circuit court for review and approval. If your court has not submitted a COOP, you may do so by sending it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your court will be notified via email whether your COOP has been approved or rejected. If you have already submitted a COOP, please review the attached checklist to be sure that your COOP is compliant and re-submit your COOP if necessary.
(See tab for Phase 3 Reopening checklist)
- Even though municipal courts cannot have in-person court sessions at this time, can municipal courts still accept in-person payments in the lobby?
Yes, so long as social distancing and other health protocols are in place to keep court personnel and visitors safe from COVID exposure.
- Are municipal courts required to use WebEx for virtual court or are other platforms acceptable?
According to the Missouri Supreme Court, Municipal Courts must now use WebEx to hold virtual court.
- Can municipal courts issue warrants for defendants who don’t appear for virtual court?
While this decision will remain within the discretion of each Municipal Judge, the 21st Judicial Circuit Corona Virus Committee does not advise issuing warrants until the Municipal Court can re-open for in-person court sessions in light of the potential inability of a defendant to appear virtually, and/or the possible increase of risk for the defendant, the police, and/or other court personnel.
- Can municipal courts issue lieu of bail holds?
Municipal Courts may issue lieu of bail holds on traffic offenses consistent with state statutes.
- In light of the confrontation clause, can municipal courts hold trials virtually?
Yes, however it is advisable to have the parties stipulate/acknowledge and waive any objection to the confrontation clause (along with their other rights) in writing prior to holding a virtual trial.
- Once the 21st Judicial Circuit resumes in-person court sessions, can municipal courts continue to hold courts virtually?
Yes, however, it is recommended that every court hold at least one in-person docket per month to allow those defendants who cannot attend virtually to attend in person.
- Even though municipal courts cannot have in-person court sessions at this time, do they need pre-approval to start virtual court?
No. Municipal Courts can hold virtual courts now, without any pre-approval from the Presiding Judge.
- Are there any special steps that need to be taken to start virtual court?
Be sure that your court has the proper computer hardware. A laptop or desktop that has audio and visual capabilities is required. It is helpful if both the court administrator and the judge have separate computers. To avoid audio feedback, ear phones are recommended.
Written notice should be sent to defendants and attorneys well in advance of their court date with information on when and how to log in to your virtual court session. In addition, you should put this information on your city or court website.
(See attached Powerpoint)