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Cass County Courts restart jury trials, reopen building

CASSOPOLIS – This month, the Law and Courts Building in Cassopolis, which houses the Cass County Courts and the Cass County Prosecutor’s Office, reopened to the public after months of restricted access due to COVID-19.

The Cass County Courts moved to Phase 3 effective June 7. Courts take their guidance on COVID-19 restrictions and requirements from the Michigan Supreme Court on topics such as masks, social distancing, public access, as well as trial administration.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Cass County Courts remained agile moving from in-person proceedings to Zoom proceedings, moving from mostly in-person filings of pleadings to mostly pleadings filed by email,” said Cass County Chief Judge Susan L. Dobrich.

Jury trials restarted June 8. The first two felony jury trials since COVID-19 restrictions were put into place with Cass County’s IT Department faciliting technology to connect all three courtrooms so that jurors could be spread out to safely conduct jury selection.

Dobrich said restarting jury trials is important as criminal defendants have a constitutional right to an in-person jury trial. While jury trials could not be host, cases became backlogged.

“We have kept our Court cases moving and processed in a timely manner with the exception of jury trials which could not be held as a result of restrictions put in place by the Michigan Supreme Court,” Dobrich said.

Pursuant to the Phase 3 requirements, all three Cass County Courts will continue to conduct the majority of their proceedings virtually via Zoom to provide timely case administration in a safe manner.

The public will not be admitted to court hearings at this time because of social distancing requirements in Phase 3. However, court proceedings will continue to be live streamed on the courts’ YouTube channels to continue providing public access.

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