By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
While Missouri deals with a rise in COVID cases due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, many aspects of life continue to look more normal.
One of those is court trials and proceedings.
After many weeks and months of going virtual, the Missouri Supreme Court lifted statewide COVID-19 directives in mid-June, giving the greenlight for all Missouri appellate and circuit courts to proceed more fully in-person.
Buchanan and Andrew County Circuit Judge Dan Kellogg says proceedings are feeling much like they did before the pandemic broke out last March.
"Basically, we're about back to where we were 18 months ago," Kellogg said. "Jury trials are being held. There's no restrictions on limiting the number of people or things like that."
Kellogg points out that part of the Supreme Court's decision gives local judges the authority to decide whether precautionary measures should be utilized for anyone who may be immunocompromised.
"They're still encouraging us that if people can appear remotely, they're encouraging us to allow remote appearances by attorneys and even litigants," he explained. "If somebody calls me and says, 'Hey, I'm part of a compromised group,' then I'll defer their jury service for a period of time so they can feel safe about it."
One change brought on by the pandemic will remain in place for some time. Incarcerated defendants will continue to appear virtually via Webex. Kellogg says this is mainly for security reasons.
"Attorneys are fine with it," Kellogg said. "It's for security purposes. It actually works better for the sheriff's departments and the bailiffs, because they're not having to worry about security risks of walking people across the street or things like that."
It's been a turbulent year-plus, but things are looking up, and the legal system in Missouri is back at full-speed. Kellogg credits all local government employees who showed flexibility during the pandemic. He says their efforts have made a return to normal possible.
"That willingness to be flexible and be creative and think outside the box has worked well for all of us," Kellogg said. "Really, we're in a good place right now."
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.