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Deschutes and Jefferson County Court Proceedings During COVID-19

Deschutes County Circuit Court COVID-19 Updates

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in-person court services are limited. Many services are being handled online or via telephone. You may visit the county courthouse website for more information about online services including payments, court records, checking for court dates, file court cases and obtain court forms. If you have a current case with me or another attorney, please check in regarding the status of your case.

Restrictions on Court Operations

Oregon’s Chief Justice, Martha L. Walters, issued the original order imposing Level 3 Restrictions on Court Operations on March 16, 2020. On March 23, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an Executive Order requiring Oregonians to stay at home or their place of residence to the maximum extent possible. This resulted in the Chief Justice directing courts to comply with amended Level 3 restrictions on operations, which are in place until further notice. The Chief Justice issued an amendment to the Level 3 restrictions on March 27, 2020.

Oregon Circuit Courts have been directed to comply with Level 3 restrictions significantly limiting the number of persons in courthouses and places of work.

Criminal Trials in Oregon During COVID-19

For in-custody defendants with one or more criminal charges, the presiding judge may schedule a trial to begin before June 1, 2020. The judge may consider whether to postpone each trial scheduled to begin before June 1, 2020. These trials will not be postponed if the judge determines postponement would violate a statutory or constitutional right. Each defendant whose case is rescheduled has the right to an expedited hearing to address release issues.

A judge may schedule a trial to begin before June 1, 2020, for jury and bench trials for criminal cases. Trials that are held may be conducted by remote means if reasonably feasible and permitted by law, including with consent of the parties. Each criminal defendant whose case is rescheduled shall have a right to an expedited hearing to address release issues.

Essential Criminal Proceedings

The following Category 1 criminal proceedings are considered essential when the defendant is in custody and shall be held on the date scheduled unless postponed on the motion of a party or by the presiding judge:

  • Arraignments
  • Probable cause hearings
  • Release hearings
  • Probation violation hearings
  • Plea hearings
  • Sentencing hearings
  • Aid-and-assist hearings
  • Any other hearing that will directly lead to the release of the defendant or the resolution of the case

This also includes Grand Jury proceedings or preliminary hearings for felony indictments.

Category 2 essential criminal proceedings shall be help on the date scheduled unless postponed on the motion of a party or by the presiding judge. These proceedings may be scheduled to begin on a date before June 1, 2020, and may be conducted by remote means if reasonably feasible and permitted by law. This includes case management and docket hearings and out-of-custody arraignments on citations, within 30 days of the issuance of the citation.

COVID-19 Court Services in Deschutes and Jefferson Counties

Court operations in Bend have been consistent with the Chief Justice Order and the Amended Chief Justice Order. Court operations are limited to three, at times four, courtrooms in the Deschutes County Circuit Court. Most hearings are being conducted via conference call and in-person appearances are limited. Some hearings are being conducted by video and the Court works to expand video opportunities. The current docket primarily includes criminal cases and urgent matters such as stalking, restraining, immediate danger and dependency hearings.

Jefferson County Circuit Court has canceled all jury trials through April 30, 2020, to be rescheduled as conditions allow. Grand jurors are still required to report to the courthouse for grand jury service.

Is My Court Date Postponed Due to COVID-19?

If you have a current case, please check with your attorney regarding the status of your case. While Jefferson and Deschutes County Circuit Courts have limited in-person services, some hearings may continue by remote means, via phone or video, for example. Don’t skip your court date without checking in with your criminal defense attorney first. Many criminal cases continue to be on the docket in Jefferson and Deschutes Counties.

Courthouses have not been shut down completely. The Constitution is essential, which means legal work continues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reach out to Nelson Law with any questions you may have about your criminal proceedings during these uncertain times.

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