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Pima County courts closed to 'in-person' hearings

Pima County's courts will be closed to almost all in-person hearings for the next three weeks, according to an order published Thursday by the presiding judge

In an administrative order, Presiding Judge Kyle A. Bryson wrote that "effective immediately, no in-person proceedings will be conducted at the county's Superior Court or the Pima County Juvenile Court Center" until April 17, 2020. 

"Although most in-person hearings and events will no longer occur in the superior court, the court will continue to hold telephonic hearings and remain available to process all case types and non-appearance proceedings," he wrote. 

Bryson allowed for "limited exceptions" where hearings require an in-person appearance as required by the Arizona or U.S. constitutions. This includes initial appearances in criminal matters, arraignments, as well as hearings for a change of plea, and sentencing hearings if someone is to be released. 

"For such proceedings, specified individuals associated with the matter may attend, subject to the judge’s discretion," he wrote. "Those so authorized may include the parties, lawyers participating in the hearing or event, witnesses, victims, sheriff’s deputies, detention or law enforcement officers, and parents in juvenile delinquency matters." 

"All individuals in attendance must observe social distancing guidelines to the extent reasonably possible, he said. 

Bryson also ordered that essential hearings in civil matters could be done via telephone, including evictions and elections cases. 

The court asked anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19, or shows any symptoms of the novel coronavirus, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, to contact the court to make other arrangements. 

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Since last Thursday, reported cases of COVID-19 patients with positive tests have increased nearly 10 times in Arizona, from 44 to more than 500. Earlier Thursday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors ordered bars and gyms and other gathering places, including dine-in restaurants, to remain closed in unincorporated Pima County until April 10. 

"They should NOT come to the courthouse," wrote Krisanne LoGalbo, a county spokeswoman.

The Pima County Justice Court halted most hearings almost a week ago.

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