Caddo Parish District Court has announced initial steps toward reopening, effective Monday, May 18, 2020.
The precautions ordered emphasize the importance of maintaining space between people, wearing masks and screening people entering the courthouse.
First, people who have visited certain countries within the last 14 days, or who have had close contact with people visiting these countries, cannot enter the building. The countries, subject to revision, are China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran.
Entry also is forbidden to people who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency; those who have been diagnosed with, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; and people exhibiting CDC-identified symptoms of COVID-19, notably fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Additionally, people with a fever over 99 degrees Fahrenheit cannot enter. Courthouse security has been instructed to take the temperature of all members of the public through the least intrusive means. Those refusing consent to the procedure will not be allowed to enter.
Finally, all people entering the courthouse must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth, unless instructed to remove it by court security or staff. Masks will be available for the public. Court employees who come into contact with the public also will wear masks.
Signs will instruct the public on seating limitations in courtrooms, which will limit occupancy to 25 percent of capacity.
Those denied entry for refusal to wear a mask, exhibiting a symptom or giving a prohibited answer to questions upon entry will be provided with a supplemental notice ordering them to return on a future date, the fact of their appearance and the reason they were refused entry. These notices will be documented.
In line with federal and state recommendations, the courts will strive to limit courtroom presence through video conferencing, staggering times for the appearance of litigants, and continuing matters that are not time-sensitive in favor of those that are.
Judges also will provide designated seating for the press and public at their discretion. Interested parties should contact the office of the presiding judge in advance of court if special accommodations are required.
Jury trials remain prohibited at least through the end of June by order of the Louisiana Supreme Court. In civil matters, the court dockets remain subject to the discretion of judges with regard to courtroom occupancy.
Parties and counsel representing a party scheduled to appear during the next two months and at high risk from potential exposure to COVID-19 should contact opposing counsel and the staff of the respective judge regarding that risk. Similar courtesies should be extended if any witnesses are known to have particular vulnerabilities.
Copies of the order are posted on the Caddo Parish Clerk of Court website.