Courthouses close to public to reduce coronavirus risk
Essential staff will continue to see cases in Mecosta, Osceola counties
MECOSTA, OSCEOLA, LAKE COUNTIES — Courthouses in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties are closing their doors to the public in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In an administrative order approved by the State Court Administrative Office on Monday, the business offices of the 49th Circuit, 77th District and 18th Probate courts in Mecosta and Osceola counties were ordered closed to the public from Wednesday through April 3.
77th District Court Judge Peter Jaklevic said that while the courts will be closed, essential staff still will be handling some cases.
According to the administrative order, these cases include all in-custody arraignments involving adults and juveniles as well as emergency matters, such as filings related to child protective proceedings.
Jaklevic said the judges working in Mecosta and Osceola counties unanimously agreed closing the courts to the public was the best decision for the health of the staff and community as a whole.
"We want to do anything we can do to lessen the impact," he said. "We as a court system need to protect the public."
Jaklevic said at all arraignments and bond hearings, the court will be working to keep everyone safe. This includes taking measures such as teleconferencing and maintaining distance.
"We're trying to avoid a big spike in the outbreak," he said. "We're trying to follow as best we can the CDC recommendations and what political leaders and medical professionals are telling us to do."
The administrative order states in the district court, arraignments and bond hearings will continue in all criminal cases where a defendant is lodged because of the inability to post bond, but all other criminal matters for persons not in custody will be temporarily adjourned.
All civil matters in the district court, including landlord-tenant, small claims, general civil and informal hearings, will be adjourned during the court's closure.
In the probate court, mental health commitments, emergency guardianships and other emergency matters will continue. Other hearings may continue via teleconferencing at the discretion of the probate judge.
For the family division of the circuit court, abuse and neglect pick-up hearings, required delinquency hearings, personal protection orders, ex parte custody matters and public health matters will be held.
Additional matters will be decided upon by the court.
All in-person civil hearings also will be adjourned, including but not limited to abuse and neglect, support, custody, parenting time and delinquency cases.
In the circuit court, all jury trials will be postponed. However, any general civil motions will be moved to phone hearings.
Circuit court judges also stated in the administrative order they will be working to protect the constitutional rights of those working through the court system by assessing each case.
The Friend of the Court will adjourn all current hearings and will be assessing the possibility of having certain hearings by teleconference.
Additionally, all court filings and payments must be made by mail only. Some staff also will be available by phone at the courthouses in Mecosta and Osceola counties on a limited basis.
Jaklevic said that although court staff is hoping for the best during the threat of the coronavirus, it is better to take preventative measures.
"Courts attract a lot of people to do business into a confined area, and right now that's the wrong thing to do," he said.
In addition to the courts in Mecosta and Osceola counties, the Lake County Courthouse also announced in a news release Monday that they will be closed to the general public until further notice.
For more information regarding what services still will be available at the courthouse and how to make payments, visit the Lake County website at lakecounty-michigan.gov.