Courts in Nebraska, Iowa set plans amid virus pandemic

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Posted at 10:20 AM, Mar 15, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Courts in Nebraska and Iowa have laid out plans on how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, including a move by federal courts in Nebraska to nix all jury trials and grand juries for the remainder of March.

In Nebraska, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican issued an order requiring all courts to remain open, while putting some restrictions in place. Anyone with an elevated risk of transmitting COVID-19 must inform the court and opposing counsel so that hearings, depositions and other meetings can be rescheduled. Those at elevated risk are also barred from attending trials, hearings and other court-related functions.

The Iowa Supreme Court has implemented similar restrictions, adding that courts may conduct meetings and hearings remotely via video or phone conferencing in an effort to curtail the spread of the virus.

“All such efforts must be consistent with keeping courts open to the fullest possible extent while protecting public safety by mitigating the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19,” the Iowa high court said in its order.

In his order, Chief U.S. District Judge John Gerard said that Nebraska’s federal courts have “a robust capacity for conducting business remotely” and that most operations will continue unimpeded.

“But obviously, not all of the court’s work can be completed at a distance,” Gerard wrote. “In particular, the need for in-court hearings must be balanced against the risk associated with such contact, and jury proceedings are inadvisable in the current environment.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

According to the World Health Organization, people with mild case recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe cases may take three to six weeks to get better. The vast majority of people recover from the virus, which has infected more than 153,500 people worldwide and has killed more than 5,700.

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