Coronavirus causing problems for Park County legal system

The legal system in Park County is feeling the impacts of coronavirus. Some court appearances...
The legal system in Park County is feeling the impacts of coronavirus. Some court appearances had to be postponed. (KGWN)
Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 12:58 PM CDT
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The protective measures recommended during the COVID-19 Pandemic have caused unforeseen complications in the legal system.

During an emergency planning meeting for the Park County Commissioners this week, District Court Judge Bill Simpson pointed out that concerns about the spread of the coronavirus can not be understated - in fact, they are seeing the dangers in the courtroom.

“There are people coughing in court - we had a trial last week, counsel was sick, coughing," Simpson explained. "We finally had to take our own measures, which the court can do, and say exhibits will be placed in a central location, they will not be handled without gloves. If you have anything to state you’ll have to step away. I told my staff, you go in every night, we scrub the courtroom down.”

Judge Simpson explained that coronavirus exposure has already caused the delay of one court case that was scheduled for this week.

“This attorney told me, ‘I was in Sheridan, I was exposed, and I can’t make the court appearance.’ Now, if that attorney hadn’t done that, that attorney could have shown up, been in the courtroom, we would have had exposure.”

Judge Simpson added that he is working with the Park County Attorney and the Sheriff’s Department to modify the court schedule to allow fewer people in the courtroom at one time. And Sheriff Scott Steward said they are taking extra measures to prevent the spread of the virus at the jail as well.

“We’re really trying to prevent it from coming into our facilities, for not just inmates and officers, but everybody," Steward said. "Because if we get one case in there, then, what do we do? It’s a nightmare for us. So we’re not panicking, we’re taking all the protective measures.”

Steward added that their officers are cutting down on interactions with the public, limiting non-emergency calls and taking as many steps as possible to prevent the potential spread of this virus.