The 19th Judicial District Court in downtown Baton Rouge is closed until April 13 to reduce exposure to the novel coronavirus, court officials announced Tuesday.
All East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court offices inside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse also are closed until that date, except for emergency filings that can be made from 8 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays on the third floor.
A sign taped to the courthouse doors Tuesday evening makes no mention of East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court, which occupies the fourth floor of the 11-floor courthouse near the riverfront.
The announcement came a day after the Louisiana Supreme Court delayed all civil and criminal jury trials and many other kinds of civil proceedings across the state for at least two weeks in reaction to the novel coronavirus.
All full-time 19th Judicial District Court employees will be on emergency leave during the closure and will not have to use their own accrued leave.
Even before the Supreme Court’s and 19th JDC Chief Judge Wilson Fields’ orders, the 19th and 23rd Judicial District courts in East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes, as well as other local courts in East Baton Rouge and Ascension, had already suspended routine court proceedings starting Monday for at least the next few weeks.
The Supreme Court's order doesn’t suspend initial criminal appearances for adults and children, arraignments for those in jail, and bail hearings but says those proceedings "shall be conducted with the use of telephone and video conferencing whenever possible."
The high court added that the statewide continuance won't count toward speedy trial calculations, which are designed to ensure defendants awaiting trial in jail don't languish behind bars.
The Supreme Court continuance doesn't apply to a variety of child, mental health and public health proceedings, such as child protective orders and emergency hearings aimed at protecting the public.
The East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court’s Office, which also has a main office in the City Hall building as well as a satellite location on Airline Highway, announced Tuesday that all of its offices are closing Wednesday until April 13. Spokesman Fred Sliman said all prescriptive periods, or filing deadlines, for legal matters have been halted by executive order.
The order signed by Fields says persons with pending criminal cases and civil matters set during the court closure will be notified of their new court dates. Jurors who had been notified to appear between now and April 10 do not have to appear.
The 19th JDC order does not prohibit any court proceedings by telephone or video teleconferencing.