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Covid-19 and The Courts

J. Bradley Klepper
Attorney at Law

I am writing this article on March 23, less than a week after I wrote my prior article. I know that by the time this goes to publication things may have changed. Though I doubt it. So I am writing this article on what, in my opinion, is the front end of the wave of the impact COVID-19 is having on the courts.

For the most part, my job has something of a natural rhythm. I come to work, drink way too much coffee, complain about whatever body part hurts that day and then I talk with clients, prosecutors, officers and judges. Have some hearings on various matters and go home. After that, it is like it says on the shampoo bottle, lather…. rinse…..repeat.

Now when I come to the office, after I caffeinate and complain, I look at my docket and the courts and try to get a handle on what is going on. Have my hearings been postponed? What can I tell my clients about when they can expect resolution of their case? How do I reach out to prosecutors working from home? Are the court clerks working?

If you can’t tell, everything (except the caffeine and complaining) have changed since COVID – 19. Quite simply, the new norm is something along the lines of chaos.

Everybody from Judges, defendants, prosecutors, enforcement and court personnel face a new reality. Courts across the country are suspending jury trials, pushing back court dates, prohibiting “in person” hearings. All at a time when the courts already had a substantial backlog.

Of course, these additional delays will only increase the backlog of cases in the court system. Some courts are pushing court dates out 8 weeks. Some are pushing out court dates indefinitely. All the while, enforcement is still writing tickets and making arrests – though their focus is shifting.

The immigration courts, whose backlog is legendary, are basically at a standstill. Accordingly, it may now take years to get a hearing.

In the juvenile court system some juveniles may time out (turn 18) before their case is processed. Meaning the matter is never heard.

These delays and disruptions to the court system will add to the backlogs and it will be difficult for us to dig our way out. However, pushing back court dates and postponing trials is the right thing to do at this time.

As a society, we need to do all we can to protect each other during this time. Understanding that when this is all over and life returns to something that vaguely resembles normal we will have to make some concessions. That right to a speedy trial you enjoy may not be that speedy in the future.

In addition, the enforcement officers working the highways now have a new reality. They are working with CDL drives to make sure that essential goods and services are delivered. Sure they may still write a citation and make an arrest but their goal is also to help make sure necessary goods get delivered and distributed as needed. And remember they, just like the CDL driver, are doing this while trying to stay healthy.

So at the end of the day I think everyone needs to exhibit a little patience. Patience with the courts. Patience with each other. Patience with the drivers. Patience with enforcement. We are in new territory here and hopefully we will all come out the other side with a little more understanding and appreciation for each other.

Brad Klepper, Esq. is President of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm entirely dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the forty-eight (48) states on both moving and non-moving violations. Brad is also Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at greatly discounted rates. Brad spent almost a decade with the largest law firm in Oklahoma where his practice included extensive experience in transactional law, business defense litigation, and intellectual property. In addition, Brad is a licensed architect and serves as General Counsel to the Oklahoma Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers. Brad has dedicated much of his time to DataQs challenges, which are challenges posed to the FMCSA for CSA incidents, to examine data and reports filed by law enforcement.

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