The latest in a series of Clark County court orders related to the coronavirus outbreak was issued Monday and closed the District Court clerk’s offices to in-person filings.
Chief Judge Linda Bell’s decision requires electronic filings with Family Court and District Court or documents sent by mail to the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas or the family division on North Pecos Road.
Documents filed in active cases should be filed electronically, the judge’s eight-page order stated.
“For the health and safety of all, no paper documents will be accepted by the court at this time other than documents mailed,” Bell wrote.
Bell also “strongly encouraged” attorneys to appear by video or telephone “whenever possible.”
Bell and Chief Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum have signed orders to help keep the courthouse safe from the pandemic and reduce the foot traffic in the building.
Bell temporarily suspended all civil and criminal trials for a month, along with jury selection. She also ordered that all scheduled, nonessential court hearings be conducted by video or telephonic means or rescheduled.
Baucum has ordered that all criminal in-custody hearings, except for preliminary hearings, be conducted via videoconference.
In criminal cases, where a defendant has accepted a plea agreement but cannot physically sign the document, the defendant’s attorney could sign on his or her behalf, according to Bell’s order.
“The judge shall make a record that because of COVID-19 precautions that the defendant was unable to physically sign the guilty plea agreement,” Bell wrote.
Media reporters who want to cover District Court are required to submit a request to obtain a link to videos of hearings.
“Reporters appearing by alternative means must remain on mute and are not permitted to interject or speak during any appearance. A reporter violating this rule will lose the ability to appear by alternative means,” according to Bell’s order
In a phone call Monday, defense attorney Kristina Wildeveld praised Bell and others on the bench, including Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Kristina Pickering and Family Court Judge William Voy, for working to ensure that the court system operates during the outbreak and statewide shutdowns.
Lawyers also have arranged to organize video or telephone appearances for one another, she said.
“This is incredible” Wildeveld said. “This is what I find incredible, the fact that the wheels of justice are still turning.”
Anyone unsure about whether to appear in court was encouraged to call 702-455-4472 for help.