Several courts set to reopen on June 1st with restrictions
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Several courts in Rhode Island will reopen on June 1st with capacity restrictions.
While the courthouses have been closed to many proceedings, the courts themselves have always been open during the pandemic for emergency and essential matters.
Public access will slowly begin to expand at superior and district courts in Providence and Warwick.
If you are going into court, you must wear a mask and pass security’s COVID-19 screening questions. Elevator rides will be limited to two people at a time. Social distancing will be enforced.
Hearings will be staggered and only a limited number of people will be allowed in the building at one time.
If a case can be handled virtually, it will be. In-person hearings will mostly be limited to emergency cases and trials.
“We’re conducting many, many virtual hearings every day,” said Joseph Baxter, the State Court Administrator.
As courts reopen, judges can begin to address the backlogged cases.
Superior Court is facing 9,300 backlogged cases. District Court also has thousands of backlogged cases, the exact number is not known at this time.
“We recognize that any number you fall short of on a given day will begin to cause a backup. That’s something we’re going to have to tackle going forward,” said Baxter. “We can’t tackle it all at once, or blitz a calendar for a week or a month– that’s not going to work either because the issue we run into then is how do you take that number and still adhere to what the social distancing policies are?”
Newport and South County courts will be closed until September 1st. Cases out of those courts that must be handled in-person will be directed to the open courts.