To the Members of our Bar in King County, from King County Superior Court:
- As of today, King County Superior Court is going to hold all civil trials virtually, over video platforms. We are suspending all in-person jury trials for criminal and civil cases until, January 11, 2021, subject to regular review in criminal cases. Resumption of criminal trials, and speedy trial findings, will be evaluated on a bi-weekly basis, beginning December 9, and thereafter every other week. Criminal trials could resume before January 11 at any time based upon those findings, although current data is not supportive of that. We have a constitutional obligation to evaluate the health data and make specific findings on a regular basis, based upon health data and advice from public health professionals. An Order will issue Monday.
- All ongoing cases will be tried to conclusion.
- Our Court will continue to hold all civil and family law and dependency bench trials virtually from courthouse locations. All juvenile court proceedings will continue for now, while seeking ways to further minimize in-person participation. Juvenile court leadership soon will announce whether its trials will be continued to January 11 as well.
- Our court has successfully conducted civil jury trials remotely (virtually) and we will continue doing so in appropriate cases. If all parties agree, criminal jury trials may be conducted in that manner as well. We will hold pretrial conferences in all cases to hear from counsel about their positions on whether to proceed with a virtual jury trial.
- We have a process in place for our Court to evaluate the path forward on resumption of jury trials. We have a group of judges and staff who are on an every-other week phone call with public health experts from the University of Washington School of Public Health. They will help advise us on the public health data. Ultimately, the Judges must decide when to safely resume in person jury trials.
- We remind all of you that we have taken a number of highly effective public health measures in all of our courthouse locations. Our ventilation system was significantly upgraded last Spring, to increase the number of air exchanges, add MERV-13 filters for the virus, as recommended by numerous health authorities, and reposition those filters towards recirculating air. We all wear masks, have posted Plexiglas, and far fewer people are present in our Courthouses. We have not been the source of any infection spreads, as far as we are aware.
- We caution the criminal bar-Superior Court employees will not print and circulate orders for you. This has added an incredible burden to our staff. While we appreciate your attempts to reduce the number of people in court, we need someone to handle the orders you wish to present.
Our Court will use this opportunity to pivot to juvenile, dependency, family law and civil trials. ITA continues to be the priority as is needed. Criminal trials may be held virtually at any time.
This Court will issue an emergency order on Monday.