Justices extend COVID-19 procedures, halt non-emergency warrants

The Indiana Supreme Court has extended the effective date of Indiana trial court Administrative Rule 17 orders issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving them in place through May 4, according to a Friday announcement from the high court.

“Indiana courts are ensuring essential operations continue by accepting filings and holding remote hearings. We’ve ordered rule changes to make it easier for lawyers to meet the needs of clients, and we’ve allowed courts to delay jury trials and other non-essential court matters. Today, we must commit to continue social distancing until May 4 for the good of our communities,” said Chief Justice Loretta Rush in a Friday statement.

The AR 17 orders provide the legal framework for trial and appellate courts to adjust operations. The Indiana Supreme Court on March 16 ordered Indiana courts to implement relevant portions of emergency operations to ensure essential services remain in place.

“All 92 counties and many city/town courts filed AR 17 emergency petitions. More than 110 emergency orders give courts the authority to adjust procedures in response to the pandemic. The orders have various effective dates; 20S-CB-123 brings effective dates in unison,” the Supreme Court said.

Additionally, the order authorizes trial courts to review county jail and community correction sentences of nonviolent inmates and juveniles. It also allows courts to consult with prosecutors, public defenders, community corrections, sheriffs and health authorities to consider modifying placements.

“Courts are going to stay and will not issue new writs of attachment, civil bench warrants, or body attachments (except in emergencies). By refraining from these actions, the courts will avoid placing undue burdens on individuals and communities during this public health emergency,” the court said in a press release.

The order states as follows:

1. The effective date of all orders granting emergency relief to trial courts under Administrative Rule 17, including but not limited to tolling of time limits and authority to continue jury trials (if such authority was previously granted), is extended through May 4, 2020 (or the date initially granted, whichever is later), or the expiration of the public emergency as declared by the Governor, whichever is later.

2. All courts that were granted authority to continue jury trials are directed to review the need for ongoing suspension at an early enough date that, if continued suspension is not necessary, will allow adequate notification of the jury pool to resume jury trials no later than May 4, or no later than three weeks after the expiration of the public emergency as declared by the Governor, whichever is later. If such courts believe continued suspension is necessary, they may individually petition to extend the suspension further.

3. Courts are authorized to review county-jail and direct placement community correction sentences of nonviolent inmates and juveniles and, after consultation with a team comprising local prosecutors, a public defender, community corrections, the county sheriff, and local health authorities, to modify sentences to probation, home detention, or order temporary release from the jail, with service of executed sentences to resume as thereafter ordered.

4. Absent an emergency basis to be determined by the court, courts shall issue no new writs of attachment, civil bench warrants, or body attachments pursuant to Trial Rule 64 until the expiration of the public health emergency. Any writs of attachment, civil bench warrants, or body attachments issued and not yet served prior to the date of this order shall be stayed until the expiration of the public health emergency as declared by the Governor.

5. Courts are relieved from the requirement under previous Administrative Rule 17 orders to file status reports unless they believe continued suspension is necessary, in which case they may petition this Court no later than April 27, 2020, to extend the suspension. Such petition should include all relevant factors that make an extension necessary.

6. This order does not extend the tolling of appellate or Tax Court deadlines as ordered under Case Nos. 20S-CB-123 or 20S-CB-231. 7. In all other respects except as set forth above, existing orders granting emergency relief under Administrative Rule 17 remain in full force and effect.

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