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Carter County District Court begins phased transition to resume full operations

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
Carter County Courthouse

The District Court of Carter County is beginning a phased transition to resume full operations and after a month and a half of closed doors the Carter County Courthouse will be partially accessible beginning May 18.

From May 18 to June 1, the courthouse will be accessible to attorneys and their clients, as well as individuals who have court dates or hearings, said Carter County Court Clerk Renee Bryant. This includes witnesses who have been called to court and victims of qualified offenses.

The hours that the courthouse will be open to the public are from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Friday hours will be 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Bryant said the court clerk’s office will still be answering the phones to take payments and do mailings from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Hours of public access have been limited based on new procedures that the courthouse is temporarily implementing.

“We have to have a deputy downstairs and we have to have a deputy in court so it’s not just going to be every time you can come through,” Bryant said. “You have to have a court date or you have to have an attorney and they have to look at the list to make sure that you’re on it, they have to screen you with a thermometer, you have to use hand sanitizer and you have to have a mask on.”

Access will only be allowed through the north doors of the courthouse, where a bottle of hand sanitizer will be provided. However, all individuals entering the courthouse will have to provide their own masks.

Individuals may also wear gloves or thoroughly wash their hands in place of using hand sanitizer.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, been in contact with anyone with COVID-19, traveled outside of Oklahoma within the last 14 days or who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be prohibited from entering the courthouse.

People who refuse to wear masks or cleanse their hands and who are not a scheduled party to appear will also be prohibited from entering.

A March emergency joint order from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma previously suspended all deadlines and procedures, whether prescribed by statute, rule or order in any civil, juvenile or criminal case, through May 15.

Over the past two months Bryant said all suspended court dates have been scheduled on one date in order to keep track of the cases. Due to this, there are over 300 cases scheduled on May 18.

“There will be no court on May 18 even though online it says that there is court,” Bryant said. “In order to keep track of them we had to set them all on one date so we can report to see what we have and so we don’t miss anything.”

All criminal and civil matters currently pending that were set on or before May 18 will be rescheduled at a date no earlier than May 18. Bryant said the court hopes to have all court dates reset by Friday, May 15.

“We’re really trying the hardest that we can,” Bryant said. “I would encourage everyone to check ODCR.com and if they have an attorney, they need to get with their attorney. The attorneys will have court dates— it just may not be as soon as they want it.”

Emergency hearings such as protective orders, DHS emergency custody actions, mental health cases and constitutionally required proceedings will continue to be handled on a case by case basis.

All in-court proceedings are being limited to no more than 10 persons including attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers and all necessary court personnel as determined by the trial judge. The assigned trial judge will determine the manner in which in-person court proceedings will be conducted.

Those needing to pay fines and costs are asked to do so electronically by visiting ODCR.com, calling the court clerk’s office at (580) 223-5253 or by mail. The court is also further encouraging all parties to limit in-person contact by all means possible.

Bryant said if all goes well with the partial opening, the courthouse plans to fully open to the public by June 1.

“People have got to realize we have hundreds of people coming in and out of here all of the time and if we just open the doors it will just be chaos,” Bryant said. “I just want people to have patience, we’re learning as we go, too. Everything changes every day.”

For further information or additional questions, contact the Carter County Court Clerk’s Office or speak with your attorney. Bryant said individuals can check ODCR.com or contact the court clerk’s office to see if their court date has been rescheduled.