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COVID surge leads to adjustments in Pahrump Justice Court operations

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to swell in the Silver State, Pahrump Justice Court is taking action now to curb any potential spread of the disease in its courts, which were shut down for two weeks earlier this year after an employee tested positive for the virus.

“On Nov. 10, 2020, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued a new directive during a press conference, requesting that citizens in the state of Nevada work from home whenever possible, and continue to wear masks in public and socially distance due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Nevada,” an administrative order signed by Justices of the Peace Kent Jasperson and Lisa Chamlee on Nov. 23 reads. “Additionally, Nye County has experienced a recent surge of COVID-19 cases as well, causing Nye County hospitals to fill dangerously close to capacity. Accordingly, the Pahrump Justice Court hereby issues the following changes to its previous COVID-19 administration orders, effective Nov. 19, 2020.”

The changes center on holding court hearings, both criminal and civil, virtually through the use of teleconference or video conference systems. “There will be no hearings conducted in person in either of the Pahrump Justice Court departments, unless specifically ordered by a judge,” the administrative order stipulates.

Those who are set to appear in court without legal representation, or “self-represented” litigants, will not need to worry about figuring out how to take part via telephonic or video means, as they will be given instructions on how to do so by the court. “Self-represented litigants will be contacted directly by court staff to receive information on how to appear by phone or video,” the administrative order details.

Those who have an attorney representing them, however, will have to rely on their legal representation for that information. “Counsel for represented parties shall be responsible for providing their clients with information on how to appear by phone or video,” the administrative order states. “Court staff will contact attorneys to provide information on virtual appearances but will not contact any represented litigants to provide such information.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is also putting a pinch on the court’s ability to hold jury trials and none will be held until further notice. The administrative order gave several reasons for this decision, first and foremost of which was the “reduced ability to obtain an adequate spectrum of jurors”. Additionally, the most obvious reason, the fact that the number of people required for a jury trial would simply be too much for the Pahrump Justice Court courtrooms to accommodate with sufficient space for social distancing, was cited as well.

While all hearings will be hosted virtually, that does not mean that the public will not have access to other services at Pahrump Justice Court. The traffic and criminal service windows will still be open to assist members of the public in person during the court’s regular hours of operations, which are Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For those seeking civil customer service, those windows will be open Monday and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to noon and Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. until December 31. As of January 2, 2021, justice court’s civil service window will resume its normal hours of Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Any individuals appearing in person at the Pahrump Justice Court customer service windows will be required to wear masks, use gloves or hand sanitizer immediately prior to having contact with court staff,” the administrative order states. “Court staff will not assist any individuals who fail to comply with this requirement.”

Of course, anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are barred from entering the courthouse.

To view the administrative order in full visit www.nyecounty.net. Copies can be obtained by emailing pjc@pahrumpjusticecourt.com or calling 775-751-7050.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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