Iowa Supreme Court extends order delaying the start of trials, Johnson County closes its courthouse to the public

The Johnson County Courthouse, Iowa City (cropped) — Bill Whittaker

On Thursday, the Iowa Supreme Court postponed almost all judicial proceedings in the state for at least two months. The court had previously ordered the delay of jury trials not yet underway on March 14, in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, and this new order extends the delay and expands the scope of the proceedings covered.

Trials not underway and not involving a jury will be delayed until June under the order. Criminal cases can begin no earlier than June 1. Civil cases will be permitted started on June 15.

Jury trials will be delayed longer. Criminal trials can begin no earlier than June 13, and civil trial are delayed until at least Aug. 3.

The court’s order makes exceptions for certain essential or emergency services, including issuing orders of protection; initial appearances, bail and preliminary hearings and arraignments for criminal defendants; hearings on public health matters as well as hearings on search warrants and other law enforcement actions.

In a separate action, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted on Thursday to close the county courthouse to the general public. All other country buildings have been closed to the general public in response to COVID-19 since March 17.

Some people will still be permitted to enter the building, although they will have to explain why they’re there to sheriff’s deputies providing security at the entrance, the county said in a written statement.

The public may come to the courthouse to get a domestic abuse protective order. A person coming for a domestic abuse protective order or attending a domestic abuse hearing may bring one non-lawyer person with them.

The public may come to the courthouse to get an involuntary commitment on someone for mental health reasons or substance abuse. Persons seeking an involuntary commitment may also bring a person with them, as two affiants — persons who swear to an affidavit — are required for these orders.

The public may come to the courthouse for other emergency orders including:

• Hospitalization proceedings,
• Elder abuse proceedings,
• Dependent adult proceedings,
• Motions to quash garnishments,
• Landlord/tenant proceedings in which the landlord alleges that the tenant poses a clear
and present danger.

Some of these require two affiants as well.

Also on Thursday, both Iowa City and Coralville announced they are extending the closure of their city buildings to the general public through April 30.

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