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Allen County Superior Court: Some business to continue via teleconference

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Allen County Superior Court has suspended jury trials until further notice, but its judges are working to conduct as much business as possible during the COVID-19 "Stay at Home" period.

On Thursday, Civil Division Judges David J. Avery, Craig J. Bobay, Nancy E. Boyer and Jennifer L. DeGroote provided the following update on processes and procedures:

• As Governor Holcomb's March 23, 2020 Executive Order 20-08 ("Directive For Hoosiers To Stay At Home") states, judges and court personnel perform "Essential Government Functions," and are exempt from the Governor's "Stay at Home" Order. The Allen Superior Court Civil Division and its employees are working. All e-filed motions, pleadings, claims, complaints, notices, stipulations, proposed orders, and other documents filed with the Court continue to be regularly reviewed and processed by the Allen Superior Court Civil Division.

• Jury trials. No jury trials will be held as long as the COVID-19 health emergency exists. The Judges of the Civil Division have entered, and will be entering appropriate orders concerning the use of juries in individual cases. • Other Civil Division Hearings. With the exception of jury and bench trials, the Civil Division of the Court is generally conducting the regular business of the Court by remote telephonic appearance. Orders have been entered in civil cases, informing the parties and counsel that they must arrange to appear at hearings by telephone. The Court is issuing specific orders for telephonic court appearances and procedures in each individual case.

• Protection Orders. The Small Claims Court in the Courthouse Annex (located at 1 W. Superior St. in Fort Wayne) is open to accept new petitions from individuals who are seeking Orders for Protection. However, the Court strongly encourages individuals who are seeking Orders for Protection to e-file those petitions, if possible. The website for individuals to e-file those petitions is: https://public.courts.in.gov/porefsp#/ All inperson court appearances in those cases will adhere to strict social distancing standards.

• Civil Mediation. All civil mediation may be conducted by telephone or video conference, as directed by the assigned mediator. All in-person mediations will adhere to strict social distancing standards.

• Probate and Guardianship. Probate and guardianship hearings are generally conducted by remote telephonic appearance. The Court is issuing specific orders for telephonic court appearances and procedures in each individual case. Emergency guardianship cases may be conducted in the Courthouse. All in-person court appearances in those cases will adhere to strict social distancing standards.

• Small Claims Court Trials. Most trials in the Small Claims Court in the Courthouse Annex will be continued. The Small Claims Court is issuing specific orders for continuances, telephonic court appearances, and procedures in each individual case. Allen Superior Court Civil Division Operational Update, March 26, 2020 Page 2 of 2

• Collections. Orders have been entered stating that parties and attorneys involved in collections cases are being informed that they may arrange for remote appearances by telephone.

• Garnishment. Garnishment reduction, exemption, and release of bond hearings are being conducted by telephone remote appearance. Questions regarding Small Claims cases can be directed to smallclaims@allensuperiorcourt.us.

• Residential Foreclosures and Evictions. Consistent with Gov. Holcomb's Emergency Order, all residential foreclosure and residential eviction proceedings are temporarily stayed. The scheduled hearings will be reset. Tenants who have pending cases must keep their landlord and the Court updated with their current address, phone number, and e-mail address. Tenants should continue to pay rent to the landlord while they are living in the residence during this stay of proceedings. The acceptance of payments by a landlord will not be treated as waiving the landlord’s right to request an eviction. If a tenant voluntarily moves out and vacates the residence, then the tenant must notify the landlord and the Court of the move, and must return the keys for the residence to the landlord. Landlords may file new residential eviction and foreclosure cases, and these cases will be stayed automatically; and no other action is being taken on these matters.

• The Court retains its discretion to proceed in manners other than as set out above, as justice requires.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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