The 22nd Judicial District has implemented an order to conduct all court cases remotely because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in Montezuma and Dolores counties.
Until further notice, criminal and civil cases are held via WebEx, a service that allows access to court proceedings with a phone or computer, according to an administrative order issued Nov. 11 by Chief District Court Judge Douglas Walker.
The order applies to the Montezuma Combined Courts and the Dolores County Courthouse. All jury trials are suspended until further notice.
Court proceedings continue to be held as scheduled on WebEx, and there are generally no in-person court appearances,
There are exceptions if a physical court appearance is mandated for a defendant or lacks adequate technology.
“As a precaution and for everyone’s safety, we have gone almost entirely to remote hearings,” said District Court Executive Eric Hogue.
In-person court business at the clerk window is still allowed, as well as other court-related business. Masks are required to be worn in the courthouse. Temperatures are taken, and COVID-related screening questions are asked of each person entering the courthouse.
Fifty percent of courtroom employees are working from home on a rotating basis to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure.
The court first went to remote-only hearings when the pandemic hit in March. But restrictions were temporarily loosened in late summer to allow a limited amount of people in the courtroom.
Court procedures took on an unprecedented look during that time. Sometimes audience members would only see video screens with defense attorneys and defendants. The judge, prosecutors and defendants may only be heard over a speaker phone.
The courts and public have had to adapt to the technical challenges of holding court remotely, Hogue said. Audio-video upgrades and new procedures are in place and have evolved to handle the daily docket of cases electronically.
At the time of their scheduled court cases, defendants and the public must use the free WebEx app or call the WebEx number at (720) 650-7664 and enter the meeting ID number.
The meeting ID number for cases with County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence is 926 719 417; for District Judge Walker 922 005 473; and District Judge Todd Plewe 923 446 024.
Defendants are informed of meeting ID numbers for each judge, and the ID numbers are available at the courthouse.
When a defendant, attorney or member of the public logs in, the proceedings can be heard and/or watched via video. Defendants wait for the judge to call their name, then unmute themselves to participate.
To download the WebEx app go to webex.com. For more information, visit the 22nd Judicial District website, or contact the Montezuma Combined Courts at 970-565-1111, or the Dolores Combined Courts at 970-677-2258.
Court dockets can be viewed at www.courts.state.co.us/dockets/.