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The 31st Judicial Circuit Court in Greene County is gradually reintroducing in-court proceedings.
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The 31st Judicial Circuit Court in Greene County is gradually reintroducing in-court proceedings.

Judge orders phased reopening of Greene County courts

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Following state Supreme Court guidance, the Greene County Circuit Court's presiding judge this morning issued an order on reopening courtrooms.

Presiding Judge Michael Cordonnier of the 31st Judicial Circuit indicated in the order that starting tomorrow, in-court proceedings and appearances will be permitted on an expanded basis, after a period of limited interactions inside courtrooms.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, courts have been closed since mid-April for in-court proceedings with certain exceptions, such as those necessary to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, according to Missouri Supreme Court documents.

Crista Hogan, executive director of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, said Cordonnier's order represents the first stage of courts reopening. Many cases, Hogan said, have been held virtually over the last six weeks as coronavirus rules restricted in-person meetings. She said tomorrow is "the first day that courts can move to the next stage."

Cordonnier's order gives judges supervising the cases freedom to determine whether a case is urgent enough to allow in-person proceedings. That includes the exceptions previously set, as well as "additional case types as determined appropriate," according to the order.

The order is effective until at least May 29, after which Phase II of the reopening plan is expected.

Any proceedings held during the first phase require participants follow safety procedures, including cleaning protocols. However, "masks will not be required in the courtrooms unless ordered by the individual judge of that division," the order reads.

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